Herald Journal Columns
Feb. 21, 2005, Herald Journal

For the love of reading


I love to read!

February is “I love to read” month. I am always glad when my children ask if I can read them a story because I think I love reading children’s books as much as they do.

Reading a children’s book just makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. It is fun to be in a world where animals can talk, laugh, and dance, where the colors in the world are as vibrant as a box of Crayola color crayons, where the ending is “happily ever after,” and where one can travel to different lands and events.

A book is a place where children, and adults for that matter, can travel to a world of imagination.

There are also wonderful books that can help children deal with what’s happening in their world, such as potty training, letting go of a pacifier, moving to a new home, using good manners, dealing with a pet’s death, and the list goes on.

Reading to your children helps nurture a love of language, which optimizes a child’s intellectual potential. Reading with your child also is an opportunity for bonding, which is also important for your child’s well-being and learning potential.

The latest word on reading, Dr. Phil states in his book “Family First,” is that repeated exposure to a beloved book helps a toddler enhance his or her memory, improve attention span, and build vocabulary.

Reading aloud with children is an essential component to optimal language development and is one of the most important activities for preparing them to succeed as readers.

The following are some suggested activities that we, as parents and caregivers, can do to raise lifelong readers:

• Talk, sing, and play. Babies delight in hearing language. Talk to them as you do simple everyday things together, recite nursery rhymes, and do finger plays, games and action songs.

Engaging your children in conversation helps develop their language and vocabulary skills, particularly between the ages of 16 and 26 months, when language is developing very rapidly, Dr. Phil said.

Studies suggest that the more talkative parents are, the larger their children’s vocabulary will be, Dr. Phil notes in his book. So no matter what a child’s age is, discuss with him or her a variety of topics, and engage in these conversations with your children on a regular basis.

• Use complex sentences when talking to your children, such as, “Eat your vegetables because they are healthy for your body.” Dr. Phil notes that children who are exposed to more complex grammatical structure show a higher degree of language development.

• Do wordplay games in the form of rhymes and songs with your child. This encourages language development.

• Make time to read. Read with and to your children as often as possible. Try and choose times when you can be relaxed and not rushed.

On days that are more hectic, bring some books when you take children along on errands. Have books in the car when you are traveling with your children. Listen to books on cd or tape in the car. It is a great way to keep children occupied while doing something very worthwhile and productive, and we all know that’s a good thing.

• Expose children to books and more books, and a variety of reading material. We have books everywhere in our house, in baskets, on shelves – in the basement, living room, the children’s rooms, and even in the bathroom. My children like to be read to while they are taking a bath, and they get clean, too!

Affordable used books can be found at yard and garage sales, thrift stores, secondhand book stores, and public library book sales. There are also great affordable books to purchase through children’s book orders from school.

An infant may sit in your lap while you point to pictures in a sturdy cardboard book. Toddlers like to turn the pages and identify objects in the pictures.

Preschoolers delight in stories that relate to their own experiences. Predictable stories add to their active enjoyment, as children join in on repeating phrases or anticipated outcomes.

Wordless picture books encourage children to tell their own stories.

• Take your child to the library, where they can read on their own or attend storytelling time. Many local public libraries have a weekly storytelling time. Watch for these events in the newspaper and community education brochures.Many times, the story time is followed with a related project.

Have your children get their own library cards to check out books and return them responsibly.

• Consider subscribing to a good children’s magazine. Children love having something come in the mail just for them! Magazine subscriptions make great gifts for children, too.

• Don’t pressure children about what or when to read, the National Association for the Education of Young Children states on the website www.loveaby.com.The Association further notes that nagging children about their reading habits may cause them to resist reading altogether.

Some school-age children choose to read only comic books or fan magazines after their homework is completed. Try not to criticize.

If a child makes a mistake when reading aloud, don’t interrupt. If the mistake doesn’t change the meaning, let it go.

• Slow down. It’s not just what you read to children, but how you read that matters, the National Association for the Education of Young Children also recommends. Try to read with expression and use different voices for the characters.

Reading at a leisurely pace with occasional pauses gives children time to take in what they hear, mull it over, and imagine the people, places, and events, the National Association said. And that’s what reading is about for all of us.

Follow children’s cues also. Sometimes, they get caught up in the story and don’t want stops and detours along the way.

• Be a reading model. Demonstrate the importance and useful-ness of print and reading. Read signs on the street during a neighborhood walk. Read the directions aloud while you make a snack together. Give children “junk” mail to look over while you read your mail. Show genuine interest and enthusiasm while reading with your child.

Cuddle up with a book

“Bear Snores On,” by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman, is a fun story about a bear’s hibernation with wonderful rhyming, repetition, and illustrations. This is sure to be a “one more time” story – at least for me it is.

Tongue twister

Say this three times fast: “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy, was he?”

Have a wonderful week. Cuddle up with your child and a book!