HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
February 26, 2007, Herald Journal

I love to read


February is “I Love to Read” month, and there is no doubt that many schools across America have embraced this.

Many classrooms have DEAR time, Drop Everything And Read, when time is set aside so students can do just that, read, read for enjoyment.

There is much literature available that tells us of the importance of reading to our children.

Professionals say that enjoyment is essential in the process of helping your child become a reader. There is no more important activity for preparing your child to succeed as a reader than reading aloud together, The U.S. Department of Education says.

“Children learn to love the sound of language before they even notice the existence of printed words on a page. Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.”

“When the rhythm of language becomes a natural part of a child’s life, learning to read will too,” the Department of Education says.

“Even after children learn to read by themselves, it’s still important for you to read aloud together,” the U.S. Department of Education notes. “By reading stories that are at their interest level, but beyond their reading level, we can stretch our young readers’ understanding and motivate them to continue to improve their skills.”

Children must enjoy reading to want to do it. We must remember some things about the “learning to read” process that we, as adult readers, may take for granted. We need to be patient with our children through this process. The U.S. Deptartment of Education noted these points in its booklet, “Helping Your Child Learn to Read,” by Bernice Cullinan and Brod Bagert.

• There’s a difference between words and pictures. You can point to the print as you read aloud.

• Words on a page have meaning, and that is what we learn to read.

• Words go across the page from left to right. You can follow with your finger as you read.

• Words on a page are made up of letters and are separated by a space. Each letter has two forms: one for capital letters and one for small letters.

Research shows that children who are read to will more than likely grow to love books. Over the years, these children will have good memories to treasure.

They may remember stories that made them cry and stories that made them laugh. They may remember sharing these stories with people they love and look forward to the time when they too will be able to read for themselves and read to others.

We, as parents can help our children find the tools they need to succeed in life. Having access to information through the printed word is a necessity. Knowledge is power and books are full of knowledge, Cullinan and Bagert noted.

But reading is more than just a practical tool. Through stories and books, we can enrich our lives and expand our worlds; we can relax in “different environments” and “travel to different times and places.”

It’s best to read to read to your child early and often, but it’s never too late to start.

Reading involves mental as well as physical acts. Eye-hand coordination is a part of the reading process, so when we read with our children, we can involve them by pointing out objects in the pictures and having them help turn pages.

As our children grow and continue to develop their reading skills, listening to them read without being critical is just as important as reading to them.

The most important thing we can do when our children read to us is to listen attentively. You can also take turns reading paragraphs, pages, or chapters with your child (depending on his/her age) if he/she likes to do that or you could even read in unison.

Make reading time an enjoyable time with your children.

Here are some celebrity book picks from a survey the National Education Association (NEA) released in 2001:

Judy Blume, author: “Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelman

Jim Carrey, actor: “Dr Seuss books”

Senator Hilary Clinton: “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown

Katie Couric, TV personality: “Light a Single Candle” by Beverly Butler

Faith Hill, musician: “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss

The late Fred Rogers, actor: “The Little Prince” by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

Willard Scott, TV personality: “The Little Engine that Could” by Watty Piper.

Maurice Sendak, author: “The Princess and the Goblin” by George MacDonald and “The Pirate Twins” by Willian Nicholson

Rosie O’Donnell, actor: “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” by Judy Blume and “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

Patrick McEnroe, tennis player: “The Sloth’s Birthday Party” by Diane Redfield Massie and “Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain