February is designated as I Love to Read Month all across North America, including our local schools.
My children’s classrooms are rewarding students with special activities and awards for reading. Children can choose books of their interests to earn these prizes. These tangible rewards are both fun and positive for children.
Research tells us, and we know as parents, that reading has even greater nontangible rewards.
Books help children develop crucial language skills. Reading aloud to our children exposes them to proper grammar, pronunciation of words, and vocabulary. And, even though they may not necessarily understand all of the words that they hear, they may encounter that word again and again. That word is added to their vocabulary bank.
As with almost any skill, the more children read, the better they become at it. The more interesting the subject is to them, they more apt they are to stick to it. For reluctant readers, it is especially important to find topics of interest to them.
Whether reading to our children or listening to them read, it provides a social time of connection for them and us. Discussing the book with them can lead to conversations about similar topics and expand their connections to related and new knowledge.
Reading opens up doors to new worlds. It may take us into the past or future, as well as the present. We can meet new people, encounter new adventures, and experience new settings all in the name of a book.
During this I Love to Read Month, have some fun with helping your children expand their reading adventure. After reading a favorite fairy tale or another story, ask your child to tell or write a new ending to the story.
My daughter loves to act out the story of a book she just read. Children can even create puppets and tell a well-known story in their repertoire, or a story of their own imagination, using puppets. The puppets can tell the story.
Children can draw pictures of the characters in a book and their favorite part of the book, and then tell about their drawings.
Reading comic strips or joke books can be a way to engage children in reading, as well, and, of course, it adds humor and conversation.
The National Education Association recommends these stories as part of a list of 100 books that provide great reading for children (1999).
These books were chosen as great books for all ages: “The Giving Tree” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein” by Shel Silverstein, “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott, “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, and “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?” by Bill Martin, Jr, “Corduroy” by Don Freeman, and “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney were among the top picks for preschoolers.
Top choices for young adults included: “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls, “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Summer of the Monkeys” by Wilson Rawls, “The Cay” by Theodore Taylor, and “The Sign of the Beaver” by Elizabeth George Speare.