Wednesday Wisdom: Read to her, in stages

November 9, 2011 in Wednesday wisdom

My grandma always read a book to me at night when we would visit.
And here she is, continuing the tradition. 

Unless you have ignored every news story on education, every teacher of young children and every library, you know that it is important to read to your kids and with your kids. Standard research says 20 minutes of reading a day is best.

It starts when they are toddlers (or if you are a book lover it might even start before they are born), you teach them to interact with a book. Point at the pictures, name objects and read the words on the page. You endure the monotony of the 50th round of Pat the Bunny  or Good Night Moon. And if you are a book lover, you find the process of sitting together, with your daughter close enough to smell her hair, and reading her a story, delightful and precious and it becomes an evening ritual.

As they get older, you keep reading. The books are better now. They have plots and character (finally). You both have favorites now. For you, library days, where new stories arrive in the house are a treat because you no longer enjoy Hop on Pop.  But you will never give away your copy of Knuffle Bunny. But you read on, hoping she is learning, hoping she will someday be able to read. And you keep on reading, smelling her shampoo and  the evening ritual.

Once school starts, or before if she is eager, the dynamics change a bit. She reads to you sometimes, simple books with minimal plots. And when your patience is low and you cannot stand the turtle pace at which she reads, sometimes you grumble or offer read a page here or there. And you feel bad because now is not the time to be impatient even if it is the end of the day. But still you read, smell shampoo and keep up the ritual. And you start imagining sharing with her your favorite chapter books.

My love of stories compelled me to keep up the reading ritual for eight years. I wish I had never stopped. Many people stop earlier; the duties of a job or the mess in the kitchen trumps the time spent together reading. Don’t let it. I read to my girls daily until about second grade when my daughter could suddenly read chapter books on her own. So my youngest missed out on a few years of reading together. Sometimes, mostly in the summer when our schedules are slower, I still read them stories, stories they would never pick up on their own.

I wish I could say we continue to read daily together. The idea is charming, like a gingerbread house. But still I am active in their reading lives. I listen closely to what they say, what they love, what they are curious about. I use the library to find books on those subjects. I bring home big piles and together we get excited. Sometimes I introduce them to new books they did not know about like joke books, comic strip (Calvin and Hobbes), or biographies.

And sometimes, I preview a book. I like good stories, classic stories, stories worthy of admiration and inspiration. I am not a fan of so many series out today (Junie B. Jones and Caption Underpants and Wimpy Kid…just thinking about them makes me cringe).  So I make friends with the librarian and at least twice a month, I read a book I think I want my girls to read. Sometime I discard them and tell the girls not to bother. Sometimes I promote the book.

And the best moments are when they ask me to find a book or bring home a book from the school library, wanting me to read it, because they aren’t sure it is a good book to read. Or when we both read the same book and discuss it or when we read a book together and then watch the film and discuss it. It strengthens our bond, improves their brain, and sharpens their critical thinking to do such things together.

So friends, todays’s Wednesday wisdom you’ve heard before. But don’t forget. Even if the daily reading ritual has slowed, stay involved, influence their choices, and read together anyway.

If you need more motivation check out this summary(from Esme Raji Codell)  of research compiled by Jim Trelease, author of the Read-Aloud Handbook:

Reading together: 
  1. Conditions the child to associate reading with pleasure, as association that is necessary in order to maintain reading as a lifelong activity.
  2. Contributes to background knowledge for all other subject areas, including science, history, geography, math, and social studies.
  3. Provides the child with a reading role model.
  4. Creates empathy toward other people, because literature values humanity and celebrates human spirit and potential, offering insight into different lifestyles while recognizing universality.
  5. Increases a child’s vocabulary and grammar, and has the potential to improve writing skills.
  6. Improves a child’s probability of staying in school.
  7.  Improves future probability of employment and higher quality of life.
  8. Increases life span by virtue of correlated education, employment, and higher quality of life.
  9. Lowers probability of imprisonment.
  10. Improves problem-solving and critical-thinking skills that are fundamental and transferable to all other areas of learning.
  11. Offers information.
  12. Offers laughter and entertainment and an alternative to television.
  13. Improves attention span.
  14. Stimulates the imagination. 
  15. Nurtures emotional development and improves self-esteem.
  16. Reading skills are accrued skills that are bound to improve over time…a countdown to academic success.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lesley November 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I know I try hard to instill the joys of reading in my children. I heard once that the best thing is for your child to see you loving to read, be it the newspaper, a novel…or I guess today, your kindle…..that they will want to emulate you….We read every night, and it is such a great one on one time with each of our kids before they go to bed! Happy SITS day!


Laura November 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Lesley, I hope you keep reading. On Friday I will post places to go to find great books for your kids. I hope you will check it out.


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