Today I was able to talk to a group of mothers in my area about early literacy and fostering a love of books. I am not a trained expert on the subject, but years of observation and following the research makes me feel pretty secure in my knowledge. When I hear a child who has hit 4th grade complaining about having to read it simply breaks my heart. The problem is that by 4th grade it is unlikely, though not impossible, that we can make much of a change. Where we need to instill that love of books is as early as possible.
Children are natural sponges. If we want to instill a love of books, we need them to see that we share that love ourselves. The best things we can do for our kids is to be an example of someone who loves books, have books around the house, and allow them to read what they want without worrying about lexile level or even content. But more than anything, our children mimic our behavior. If they see us reading, they are more likely to read. If they see us purchasing books or going to the library on a regular basis, they learn that we value books. In lower-income homes, this can be an issue because books are often not as valued, especially when other high priority needs need to be met. In other homes, adults have stopped purchasing “real” books and instead have started relying on digital books and kids can have a hard time differentiating between the fact that you are reading a book on your tablet vs checking Facebook or your email. (For more on digital media’s impact, check out this fascinating article from the NY Times)
The other issue that I mentioned is that we need to be reading to our kids from an early age and we should continue as long as they possibly let us. Just yesterday I was reading an article in Popular Science about the importance of reading to your baby. Babies get so much when you read to them. In addition to the language skills of hearing words, comprehending them, and understanding the flow of sentences, reading with your baby is also a time of bonding and helps them understand emotions through the way your voice changes as you read. Don’t take my word for it, Parents magazine has highlighted these benefits.
I will admit that these days I’m pretty far removed from baby books, but it is an important part of literacy and an important part of working with Usborne Books & More. Most people know about our series “That’s Not My…”, but when I got today’s box of books, I found a new favorite – Usborne Baby’s Very First Touchy-Feely Colors Play Book.
I am completely enamored with this book. It has so much to offer little minds and little hands. Each page focuses on a different color and has things for them to touch, flaps to lift, and even finger trails. You can talk about all of the things going on and ask them what else fits in that color family. With bright colors, a range of textures, and new things to find on every page, this is one of those books that little hands will love to look at over and over again.
What do you do with your child to help instill a love of reading?