I haven't figured this out yet . . .
I don’t know what the statistics are on this, but I’ve seen or heard of far too many people who sit their kids down in front of the t.v. for far too many hours of the day. I’m not knocking t.v. because there are a lot of good programs on t.v. these days for children that will help them develop thanks to the pioneering efforts of Sesame Street.
But this post isn’t so much about t.v. as it is about reading. That’s right, we all remember how to do it, and I’m not talking about reading your Facebook page, or Tweets, or even this blog. I’m talking about books.
When was the last time you picked up a book? If you can’t remember it’s been too long. Ok, ok, if you want to spend your time watching the boob tube that’s your business, but if you’re a parent and you can’t remember the last time you picked up a book to read to your child, then shame on you. You may be missing out on an opportunity to give your children a lifelong love of reading.
Like all good habits, it’s best to start reading to your kids early. Even if they’re newborns, do it just to get into the habit. You can get some reading done yourself and babies love the sound of their parents’ voices.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a good library near you, and your children are old enough, you can take them to storytime (most libraries should offer it). Library storytimes are a great way for children to interact with books and other children their age. But the greatest benefit is helping expose your children to the six early literacy skills that virtually all libraries try to employ during storytimes.
You may not have even realized there were six early literacy skills, but here they are:
- Print Awareness
- Print Motivation
- Letter Knowledge
- Narrative Skills
- Phonological Awareness
Some of these are self-explanatory. Obviously by reading books to your children, you’re exposing them to words, and therefore, vocabulary. Others, like Print Motivation, may not seem as direct. So I’m going to break them down for you.
Print Awareness is basically understanding what a book is. If you hand a book to a baby, they’re likely to eat it, throw it, step on it, wave it around, and maybe hold it. They do that primarily because they’re babies and that’s what they do with everything, but also because they don’t know that there’s anything special they’re supposed to do with it. When you take the time to sit down, open it up and read it, they will still try to eat it, but they will eventually understand what its purpose is and to follow along on the page with you.
Print Motivation is one skill that many adults lack, that is, liking and being interested in reading. Even if you read to your children, but don’t like it, they’ll pick up on it. Speeding through the story, reading with a monotone voice, or pausing in the middle of the story to text your homies, are all surefire ways to ensure your children will not enjoy reading. Children are so perceptive and can easily distinguish the difference between genuine interest and a lackluster effort. It’s so important to find children’s books that you like reading yourself because if you enjoy the story, you’ll read with enthusiasm and your kids will get excited about the story too. Also, once children understand what a book is, it’s a good idea to let them flip through the pages themselves to encourage this skill.
Letter Knowledge comes into play as your child gets older and has had more familiarity with language where they can begin to understand that there are different letters and that they have specific sounds. ABC books are great for encouraging this, as is singing the alphabet. When your kids start speaking, you can point out that certain words they know begin with specific letters and emphasize the sound that goes with it.
Vocabulary, again, is self-explanatory. Your kids will learn words that they hear every day, but reading can expose them to words that they don’t always hear and will help them to learn what those words mean. You can even work on this one without books by speaking clearly and explaining words to your children that they are unfamiliar with, no matter what their age. If you “baby-talk” to your baby, you’re only retarding their linguistic development.
Narrative Skills help children to understand sequence. Think about it, even the most mundane day occurs in a sequence; you get up, you eat breakfast, you go to work/school, you eat lunch, etc. The first thing every parent wants to do to make their lives easier is to get their kids on a schedule, and by being exposed to narrative through reading, you’re only reinforcing the knowledge that things happen in a sequence.
Phonological Awareness is much like Letter Knowledge, only more advanced in that it involves understanding that words are created by varying sounds. Singing and rhyming are great for encouraging this skill, which is why books like those written by Dr. Seuss, are so valuable.
Sorry for the long post, but reading to my kids is something I really love doing and it’s so beneficial to their development, which is what all parents want for their kids. So if you want your kids to love books, put down the remote and pick up a book.