This week is Children’s Book week sponsored by the Children’s Book Council (who have celebrated children books and reading since 1919). Every week should include a celebration of great literature and reading with your children, but this week a chance to really step up and share the tremendous joys derived from reading to and with children.
We all know reading is important, but do you ever wonder why they are important early on? Early literacy skills have an indisputable relationship with later, conventional literacy skills such as:
- decoding (what letters and chunks sound like)
- oral reading
- fluency (smoothness and accuracy)
- reading comprehension (knowing what text means)
Long before children start school, they begin to develop an awareness of the systematic patterns of sounds in the spoken language (no matter what the language). They also learn to manipulate sounds (rhymes, silly songs build these skills), learn the relationship between letters and sounds and build their oral language and vocabulary skills. Once in school, the reinforcement of these skills and the synthesis of skills is set in motion by quality teaching, frequent reading, and the unwavering attitude, modeled by adults and peers, that books bring joy and richness to life.
As children learn to read their growth generally follows predictable patterns and hallmarks. Letter sound relationship, sight word identification, chunking (reading clusters of letters vs. sounding out each little piece), comprehending simple texts with familiar story lines. This is by no means an easy or painless process for all children, but no matter how smooth reading is for children, frequent reading (to, with or independent) is essential. Whatever children read on their own is likely to be easier than what they can read in guided reading with a skilled teacher, but allows them to solidify knowledge, feel confident and focus on comprehension strategies.
As a teacher and a parent, excitement felt by both reader and observer when the lightbulb goes off and a child truly views herself as a reader is always cause for celebration (and often tears of joy!). It’s a remarkable process that once it clicks, opens the door to so much more. Author Patricia Polacco writes eloquently about the significance of “chasing adventure, knowledge and wisdom in a book” in her story The Bee Tree, available through Amazon.com.
One of the most important messages we can give children is that reading is essential. We also need to convey to them what we notice and know they do as readers – simple things like choose books, open and flip pages (even if they are not “reading”), enjoying pictures, connecting pictures and text, talking about literature, sharing great stories. Readers who comprehend what they read also make connections. Talk about the connections yo unmake to literature – connections to other books (in teacher speak, “text-to-text”), your own life (“text-to-self”) or the world (“text-to-world”). It’s often easier for children to make these rich connections when they listen to stories, so as you read aloud to children, stop often to discuss those connections and ask your child what connections they can make. And remember to help kids find books they can identify connections to – who likes to read stuff that feels irrelevant? With so many books to choose from (and reading lists galore – see below) there is no excuse to read a book that doesn’t stir some passion or wonder. Later in life, there will be required texts which hold little significance or relevance – so grow avid readers by finding literature they love!
Research abounds on how children learn to read. But the bottom line is that reading aloud to and modeling reading at home are two sure-fire ways to give your child a strong foundation for success in reading and a life-long love of reading and learning. Pick up a couple of good book from your shelves or hit the library armed with a reading list from one of the sources below, and read aloud to a child this week!
Got preschoolers? Here’s a book list book list from Education.com
What are the 50 multicultural books kids should know? Click here to find out.
Want to decipher the reading lingo your child’s teacher or school uses? Teach Mama tells give you something to put in your pocket.
Got girls? Check out Readergirlz
Want great resources, reading lists and ideas (especially for kids who don’t love reading)? check out Reading Rockets
Looking for the nuts and bolts of research for parents and teachers, check out the National Institute for Literacy
On the go but want to share some good books? Check out Tales 2 Go
A couple of blogs worth mentioning:
Share a Story, Shape a Future – building a community of readers, one person at a time
Teach mama – a blog rich with ideas and thoughts on making learning a way of life, written by a reading specialist/English Teacher/mother of three
Literacy Connections – an extensive collection of reading mechanics and research with contributors from a wide-array of institutions