By Dr. Sabra R. Smith
As adults, we rarely think about the importance of reading. Innately, automatically and oftentimes without thought, we read headlines of newspapers before picking them up to read entire articles, the written parts of commercials as they flash across the screen during one of our favorite TV shows, the selection of menu items at one of our most frequented restaurants, albeit we’ve read it several times before, and the green and white street signs as we aimlessly drive through unfamiliar neighborhoods. And that’s only the material we read automatically. What about those things we read intentionally like a good novel, an engaging non-fiction, reference, or business book, The Wall Street Journal or articles in a magazine?
As a literate society, reading is a must. British playwright and novelist, Henry Fielding, said it best when he said, “Read in order to live.” Whether you read out of necessity or passion, you can instill a love for reading in your children.
A child’s first exposure to books and reading should be fun, enriching and exciting and can be achieved in many ways like:
Listening to others read to them while looking at the colorful, picturesque pages of the book.
Watching enriched learning products like “Baby Einstein” and “Your Baby Can Read.”
Taking trips to the bookstore and/or library to pick out a book they would like to read.
Receiving books of interest, such as ones about puppies, cars, dolls, or their favorite cartoon character, as a birthday gift or Christmas present.
Children grow to understand the books being read to them when reading material and subsequent discussion evokes the five senses and provokes thought. For example, when reading a book about the lifecycle of butterflies, such as Eric Carle’s, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, children can be asked simple questions like: “When does the moon come out, at night or in the day?” or “What color is an apple?” With time, they can be asked more advanced questions like, “How do you feel when you’re hungry?” and “What day of the week did the very hungry caterpillar eat through three plums?”
After reading and answering relevant questions about the books they read, children can be further engaged in comprehending the material by watching a DVD animation of the book. Making stories come alive through puppetry or animation can add an additional element of fun and excitement to the reading process.
Repetition is also vital to developing the skill of reading and the subsequent love of books. As children read the same book over and over again, not only do they become more and more excited about the book but, they also begin to identify with the words and pictures on the pages, which allows them to take ownership of the reading process.
When early reading experiences are fun and engaging, children develop not only a need to read but a love for books and reading. In today’s information society, children will need to read in order to live.