Your Child and Reading

Reading to your child is is one of the first and most important literacy activities of your child's life. I often take the approach with my own children of simply reading anything and everything that interests them. I can not tell you how many times I have read, for example, non-fiction books that would seem seriously boring to me, only to have my children enjoy them.

You may find yourself in a situation where your child brings you a book that does not seem at all of interest to you. In that moment, just stop...take a serious look at the book. Sometimes, if you just begin reading, you may be amazed at what your child can comprehend and enjoy. If you begin reading and they are obviously not interested, just move on to another book you believe may be more interesting.

Also, don't forget that reading is everywhere. Point out to your child signs, menus, lists, etc. as you wander through your day. This provides for your child real life meaning in regards to literacy.

As far as selecting books for/with your children, I have below an excellent piece written by Bev Bos (one of my favorite educators). Please read and enjoy!

Children's Books

by Bev Bos

In all the years I've been teaching, I've never seen a time when there were more good children's books available. I am especially encouraged by the diversity in today's books, socially, culturally, and ethnically. I have a list of books that I have used as resource books with success and books that I have read and reread to the children at school and my grandchildren. They are books I am passionate about and will still enjoy in ten years. But to keep the joy of teaching alive for myself and the wonder of learning alive for my kids, I am always on the lookout for that brand new book I can bring in on Monday morning. Our school library shelf is a combination of these two types of books - old loved standards and exciting new discoveries.

I am often asked why I choose the books I do. While some have suggested I have developed a strong intuitive sense, I prefer to think that I have simply learned from experience. After reading books to young children for more than thirty years, a good book has to meet a certain criteria for me:

. Is it meaningful to the children, something they can make sense of? Does it help them make sense of their world without being condescending? Does it encourage conversations connected to their lives or imagination?

. Is it humorous? Does it promote gales of laughter or heighten a child's sense of fun? Is it, in other words, irresistible?

. Are the illustrations visually pleasing and not overwhelming?

. Does the book encourage children to interact positively? If it doesn't create conversations by the first page, put it away and get another book.

. Does the story help children toward self-identification or reinforce their self-concept positively?

. Are there opportunities to create - to expand on the story?

. Is it "preachy", "teachy" or "cutesy". If so, you are better off without it.

My philosophy is that books do not belong in the library or just on the bookshelf at home. Kids should have easy access to books all the time. At home, they should be under the pillows, stacked by the bed, in every nook and cranny. Every bathroom should have not only the newspaper but children's books, too. They should be in the car.

At school, we make sure the books are within easy reach of the children. Books and words need to be as familiar to children as the food they eat, the music they hear and the art they do. If we want our children to become literate then we must do everything we can to make them comfortable with books and language.

Sometimes we just don't know where to start. Let me give you a few ideas. One of the authors I dearly love for young children is Bob Munsch. His books are inexpensive, humorous and developmentally appropriate. He is not only a great storyteller and author but he also teaches child development - he knows children. One of his all-time greats is I Have to Go! Yes, it is about going potty and peeing. It is amazing to me that some people are offended by this book when, in fact, most people pee every day . . . and people with children know how it goes. Children never have to pee when you ask them, never when it's convenient. It's popular with preschoolers because they are so close to this major event in their lives. It gives them an excellent opportunity to talk and discuss this important personal experience.

Another Bob Munsch great is, Purple, Green and Yellow. It is about a little girl and her experience with felt pens. When I read this book I wish I were a child again. We didn't have felt pens when I was a child and I can only imagine the joy and delight of drawing and painting on your body. I am concerned about parents not allowing children the freedom to draw on themselves. Is it a double standard when on the one hand we tell them "It's your body - don't let someone else touch you.", but then deny them that sense of ownership by not letting them draw on themselves? I appreciate Bob Munsch's constant reminders of the joys of childhood.

Another of my favorite authors is Mem Fox. She also understands children and is a powerful writer. One of her best is Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge. It is the story of a young boy caring for an old person. It's my favorite book for helping children understand that when we get old, we still have the same human needs. Young children have difficulty understanding the past and growing old. This book provides the opportunity for understanding and suggests to children how much we can learn from older people. One of my grandchildren has four names because his mother loves this book so much. Mem has also written an adult book, Radical Reflections, which helps adults understand the reading process and how children really learn to read. It's one of the very best written in the last ten years - a powerful book. From her autobiography, Dear Mem Fox, I Have Read All Your Books, Even the Pathetic Ones, comes her criteria for what makes a "good" children.s picture book;

"I'm thrilled when other adults suddenly howl at the end of the book. It makes me dare to think it might be a "good" book, because good books have as much to do with the affect they have on the reader as with any other criterion. If we don't laugh, gasp, block our ears, sigh, vomit, giggle, curl our toes, empathize, sympathize, feel pain, weep, or shiver during the reading of a picture book, then surely the writer has wasted our time, our money, and our precious, precious trees."

An adult book I especially treasure is Christopher deVinck's, Only the Heart Knows Where to Find Them: Precious Memories of a Faithless Time. "Memory is the sea - what is constant in our lives." This book is a collection of memories from Christopher deVinck's life. A book to be cherished, read and reread as a reminder of how important classroom memories can be. Before I start the day, I stop and reflect for just a moment about establishing an environment where kids will get the memories that will sustain them for the rest of their lives. It helps me focus on a truly childcentered approach to teaching. This book makes me look at life differently.

Above all else, teachers and parents need to be readers. Children need to see us deeply involved in books. They need to see us crying, even sobbing, over books. They need to see us reading and laughing. They need to see that we are interested in a variety of reading material. We need to read aloud to each other - passages from books, essays, poetry and letters from friends. If children can get from us a sense of passion and wonder about words, stories, books, they will want to read themselves.