HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
March 19, 2007, Herald Journal

Reading for pleasure

By JENNI SEBORA

“Wanted: Students who read for pleasure,” was the title of a Washington Post article that was written by Michael Skube, a journalism professor at Elon University in North Carolina. The article was reprinted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this past August.

Skube professes in this article that in his university teaching experience, students entering college including those who had the top grade point averages in high school, have inadequate English skills, writing, and vocabulary skills.

One likely explanation for this he said, is that kids don’t read for pleasure, and because they don’t read, they are less able to “navigate the language.”

Thus the message, “Wanted: Students who read for pleasure.”

This is Skube’s experience and his opinions, but we certainly want kids to read for pleasure and to enjoy reading.

Reading does expand our world and enhances our vocabulary. We certainly want these skills and experiences for our children and young adults.

How do you raise a reader?

Experts say it is important to value reading yourself as a parent and caregiver and instill this value in your children.

In my household, we have reading material, whether it’s books, newspapers, or magazines, in almost every room of our house. Each of our children has a bookcase with books and we have baskets of books in almost every room.

We do try and take time to read together every day, and my husband and I try and find time to read our own reading materials as well.

Although I thoroughly enjoy reading children’s books, I do enjoy other books, too.

I currently am reading the “Little House on the Prairie” series of books, along with a Nicholas Sparks book, and the Janette Oke “Seasons of the Heart” series.

My husband enjoys reading anything from history and nonfiction, National Geographic, and the Bible.

Our children are enjoying books from “The Treehouse Mystery” series by Mary Pope Osborne, Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books, and a favorite of all of ours, including my 2-year-old is the “Junie B. Jones” books by Barbara Park.

If you haven’t read a “Junie B. Jones” book, try one. They are hilarious and instill a “reading is fun” value. I purposely initiate the reading of a “Junie B. Jones” book so I can hear it, too. The Dr. Seuss books are also another favorite of our family.

If we are reading a chapter book, we take turns reading, between my husband and I, our son, and our first grade daughter, who is a beginning reader. She loves the whole reading process and will read anything she can get her hands on. Both she and her brother love to read to their little sister. Those are always cherished moments when I find them reading together.

So it is important, but never too late, to start reading with your child. We can begin this process when our children are infants. Babies love to hear language. Talking with our infants, singing and reciting nursery rhymes, and doing fingerplays and action songs with them encourages language and starts the process.

An article, The Joy of Readin, by Barbara Rowley in Parenting, Sept. 2006, suggested some things that we can do with our children at various ages to help instill the joy of reading. This article will focus on reading with babies and toddlers.

As toddlers, read aloud to a point. Let your little one play with books as he pleases. Remember, attention spans are short at this age, so keep it brief.

Interact with your toddler by asking him to find simple things in the book. It is important to follow your little one’s lead. If she grabs a book from you to explore it, let her. Playing with books is a precursor to reading, the article noted.

When choosing books for toddlers, find ones that are durable and have options for exploration with different textures or elements that may move or smell, etc. Books that contain illustrations of real things that toddlers can recognize are good choices, too.

Books with limited text and repetition are also very popular with children.

Books such as “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr., pictures by Eric Carle, and “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” are wonderful books with great repetition.

Rowley says that babies and toddlers are learning how books work, that we read from left to right, books tell a story, and stories have a beginning and an end.

Enjoy reading books with your infant and toddler even if it means they might enjoy chewing on them.

Suggestion

Try the new restaurant/used book store in Silver Lake on main street called Books and Beans (coffee).

A short while ago, my 2-year-old daughter and I enjoyed some chocolate milk, coffee, and a bowl of soup, together as well as a couple of children’s books that we bought for a quarter a piece.