Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Value of Books: Children and Reading

I am a book LOVER. I would own every book imaginable if I could. If I were Oprah rich, I would buy a library and sit there and read for hours and days and weeks on end. At one point when I was in grade six or seven, I had read all of the books in the Bookmobile that came to our neighborhood - and could tell you what each was about.

I love the smell of books. I love the feel of books - hardcover or softcover, it doesn't matter. I love reading books on my iPad. I love listening to books as they are read to me. I. Love. Books. I love reading newspapers and will read anything I can. Even upside down on your desk...

And I want my children to love reading too.

While I want my children to love books that mean something, I realize the value in "garbage reading." What is garbage to me is often a gem to my children. Case in point: the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series. I don't like the meanness, bullying, and irresponsibility portrayed in the books. However, my boy loves them. My goal is to get my son reading so I have purchased several in the series for him and we have listened to them on audiobook in the car. I just have to follow up with life lessons so he doesn't treat others that way.

Our son's principal recognized the love he and several boys in the class had for all things Titanic when they were in first grade. She purchased new library books on the Titanic at their reading level. This helped to bring a heavy topic to a child's comprehension level. My son is an artist so he draws everything he is reading. It's a double benefit for him.

What holds your child's interest? If it's Barbie then let your daughter read Barbie books. If it's Sonic the Hedgehog, buy some Sonic cartoon books. Personally, I believe that what gets your children reading is what is important. You can work with them on the content later.

My children are ages 9 and 6 right now. I still read to them. I thought I should be phasing it out, especially for the oldest. But then I read a few articles that talk about the value of reading to your children well beyond middle school. Reading to your children helps them to understand the cadence/rhythm and pronunciation of words. It helps them develop and improve literacy skills such as increasing their vocabulary, improves attention span, nurtures emotional development, stimulates imagination, and improves problem-solving and analytical thinking.

Children listen on a higher level than they read so listening to adult readers stimulates growth and understanding of vocabulary and language patterns. It enables them to "read" books beyond their literacy level. Plus, it builds memories and bonds with your children.

I will tell you that reading with your child need not be drudgery. Once, our local librarian said her daughter hated "Alice the Fairy" but I was convinced my daughter would love it. I put on a "fairy" voice and so began my children's love affair with Alice. We bought the book for our home library. I even read it in that crazy voice for my daughter's classmates - and they LOVED it!!!

When I read a "Series of Unfortunate Events" to my children, I use a British accent. And when I read Elephant and Piggy books by Mo Willems, I use a politically incorrect southern African American male voice. The point is, have fun with the books. Find the voice of the book that works for your family.

Well, I must end this now so I can go live what I just preached. I am getting ready to read "The Littles" to them right now. What are you reading to your children?

1 comment:

Serenity said...

This brilliance! I never thought about it that way - that they can listen beyond their reading level, which will in turn help them understand language better. Reading to them is therefore like exposing them to great art, dedicated athletes, or exciting technology - it all inspires them to grow. I love it. I've been horribly neglect in this lately, but it's weird you should blog about it because I was just planning the next book during the school run this morning. I'll probably continue the Narnia series, though I'm anxious to find a book from my youth too. It's Young Christian's Pilgrimage, which is a young-adult remake of Pilgrim's Progress. My favorite educational philosophy says you should read classic literature (i.e., "hard books") to your kids and trust their instinct for literature, so it probably wouldn't approve of a dumbed-down version of Pilgrim's Progress. Still, I loved it. And why not ease them in? :)