“What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh what we make them learn.” ~ Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook
Reading is the foundation for educational success. We’ve all heard this and inherently know that as a parent we need to nurture reading in our child, but how do we go about doing this? How do we make sure that our children become avid readers and succeed in their education?
Jim Trelease is a best selling author who promotes literacy to children through reading aloud to children. His book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook” has sold over a million copies and he strongly advocates that as parents we need to make sure we “don’t teach a child how to read…teach a child to WANT to read. Some children learn sooner, some learn better.” What Mr. Trelease means by this is that we need to put away the flashcards and help a child learn to fall in love with the written word and the colorful pictures, and the feel of a book in his hands. We all know the parents who can proudly show off their child who can “read” at age three. But does that child comprehend what he is reading? Does he love the stories that jump off the page? And most importantly, will his love of reading continue to be fueled as he enters school?
What are some ways to get started with reading to your child? First and foremost every child should have his own library card. There comes a sense of pride in the ownership of a card and being able to check out books by himself with his card. Go to the library-and often. Check out stacks of books and become best friends with your local librarian. Show your child how excited you are to be carrying out bags of library books and then read them all! Challenge yourself!
Make the books come alive! Don’t just read to get through with the book. Good reading takes practice. Read using inflection and discuss what is happening in the pictures. Reenact the story after you’ve read it a few times to see if your child remembers the sequence of events. One example might be reading the classic, “Caps for Sale” by Esyphyr Slobdinka. As a the parent you can create the caps by simply cutting out construction paper into the shape of a hat and having red caps, blue caps, gray caps, and a checked cap. Then imitate the peddler by walking slowly, slowly, slowly, throughout the house. After stopping by a tree to rest, let your child pretend to be a monkey and allow him to steal the caps from your head.
Are you nervous about reading aloud to your child? Check out books on CD and have someone else read the first couple of books to your child while you turn the pages. Listen to how the recorded reading pauses and uses expression. Then you can try reading with the same pauses and expressions.
Buy a book of good old-fashioned nursery rhymes and read them nightly to your child. If you are worried that nursery rhymes are outdated consider the following facts. Nursery rhymes teach cadence, rhyme, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. They help a child recognize patterns and help with easy recall and memorization. Nursery rhymes teach a child to read with pitch and inflection. They see that there is a sequence to the rhymes and they teach basic math skills. Once your child is very familiar with a specific nursery rhyme change it up a bit so that your child can partake in the rhyme. Instead of, “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jumped over the candlestick.” Insert your child’s name into the rhyme and allow them to jump over an unlit candle.
If your child isn’t taking interest in books (and this applies to all ages), make sure he has access to many books. You can sit in a corner and read a book in an animated fashion and eventually your child will come over to see what you’re doing. It may not happen on the first, second, or even third time of reading, but be persistent. Be an example to your child. Sit down and read and letyour child see you read.
Make sure the books you have available for your child are age-appropriate. Babies are good with small chunky books with bright pictures and one or two words per page. Let your baby hold the book and claim ownership of it. If the book gets torn-that’s okay! Toddlers can hold on to larger board books, and can also be taught how to hold and turn pages of a paper book. Preschoolers should have countless books at their access. All children can get used to listening to books on CD while driving in the car. Turn off the video in the car and allow them to use their imagination while having someone read to them!
Use of iPads and Kindles to read are good when you’re in a bind, but truthfully, the best thing you can do for your child’s education is to store those hand held devices away for now. Children are entering prekindergarten and elementary school with limited fine motor skills. They are so accustomed to “swiping” a screen and pushing a button that children’s ability to print, cut with scissors, use glue, turn pages of a book and other fine motor activities are greatly hindered. There is also something to be said for holding a book in one’s hands. Give your child a head start and stock up a bookshelf with books. Promise to read three books to your child each day and strive for many more. I would ask my children to make a stack of books that they would like to read for the day and tell them that our goal would be to finish them all. Quite often our books numbered 30 or more and most days we polished them all off!
If your child attends an early childhood program here in Collier County, find out if his school participates in Literacy Buddies. This program is through the Early Learning Coalition and matches preschool children with an adult buddy. This buddy promises to send the child three books throughout the school year. Not only does this bring books into children’s homes, but it allows for the child to have a sense of ownership and pride. The moment of opening a gift of a book at school is also a joyous moment for all the children. With the help of the child’s teacher, the child “writes” thank you notes to his buddy. The buddy is able to see how their child progresses throughout the year often moving from scribbles to shapes to words. Children are able to learn how to express themselves through literacy when they are able to communicate with the Literacy Buddy. If you are interested in becoming a buddy you can contact Brooke Potts who is the quality resource advisor with the Literacy Buddy Program. Her phone number is 239-935-6186 and her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mem Fox is a best selling children’s author whose stories include: “Koala Lou,” “Possum Magic,” and “Hattie and the Fox.” Ms. Fox created the Ten Read Aloud Commandments. Here are a few of my favorite commandments: Spend at least ten wildly happy minutes every single day reading aloud. From birth! Read at least three stories a day: it may be the same story three times. Children need to hear a thousand stories before they can begin to learn to read. Or the same story a thousand times! Read the stories that your child loves, over and over, and over again, and always read in the same “tune” for each book: i.e. with the same intonations and volume and speed, on each page, each time.
Never ever teach reading, or get tense around books. Please read aloud every day because you just adore being with your child, not because it’s the right thing to do.
If you are financially unable to purchase books, please contact Peggy Totten at 239-394-7242 x 95. If you feel uncomfortable with reading to your child and would like support you may contact her as well.
Peggy Totten is the Director of St. Mark’s Preschool on Marco Island and is a “wildly happy” reader. Her joy and excitement for reading has been passed on to her three children Elliott, Julian, and Helen. Peggy’s husband Shane is a 7th grade teacher at MICMS.