We’re big fans of books around here. I’m an avid reader, and it’s not unusual for me to be in the middle of 2 or 3 books at the same time. Mike was never big reader, but in the last few years he’s gradually changed his habits. If it weren’t for him, I may have never delved into the awesomeness that is the Twilight series.
I find that most new parents know how important it is to read to their kids. The message is being sent pretty clearly: read to your children early and often. Reading stories is a ubiquitous part of the bedtime routine for most parents of toddlers and preschoolers I know.
Something interesting happens once our kids move from listeners to readers, though: the once cherished read-alouds tend to give way to silent reading time. I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the books that really changed my perspective on the importance of reading aloud to all ages is The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. He provides great information on why it’s important to read to all ages of children, along with book suggestions for each age and stage. His reasons for continuing to read to older children are quite compelling, though. In his own words,
“Children can hear and understand stories that are more complicated and more interesting than anything they could read on their own.”
We’ve found this to be true with Elena. When she was just beginning to read on her own, we were able to supplement that reading with chapter books such as Charlotte’s Web and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She could never tackle those books on her own, but she loved hearing them.
By reading books that are written for a higher grade level than your child’s reading level, “you’re feeding those higher vocabulary words through the ear; eventually they’ll reach the brain and register in the child-reader’s eyes.”
We use our read-aloud times to highlight words that Elena might not be familiar with. It’s a great opportunity to find out what words they know, what words they think they know(!), and to explain the meaning of words they don’t know. We keep a dictionary in Elena’s room and have her look up the words she doesn’t know the meaning of – a great skill to have in and of itself.
“When you get to the “heavy stuff” in books, it usually brings to the surface of the child some of his or her own “heavy stuff” – their deepest hopes and fears. And when that happens . . . children will tell you their secrets.”
I respect all the educational implications reading to your children offers, but this is the most important reason to me. As Elena gets older, I find it increasingly difficult to get those snuggly, one-one-moments with her. For one, she’s just busier and more independent. At the same time, though, she’s approaching that tween age, where conversations and attempts to cuddle are sometimes met with stubbornness. It’s comforting to know that, no matter how busy or difficult our day, we can look forward to 20 or 30 minutes in the evening when it’s just us, snuggled in her bed. She’s willing to open up at those times in ways we could never accomplish in the course of the day.
I highly recommend Jim’s book. Along the same lines, I also recommend What to Read When by Pam Allyn. It has much of the same wonderful information as Jim’s book, along with an excellent section on the best books to read according to 50 different themes. If you’re just starting out with a baby or toddler and are bewildered by all the different choices in the bookstore or library, Reading with Babies, Toddlers and Twos by Susan Straub and KJ Dell-Antonia is a great resource.
I’ll finish this series up in the next week with some of our favorite books we’ve read to Elena in the last year. I’ll just say this: we’ve been wowed more than once!