Some of my fondest memories are grabbing a book, snuggling up with my daughter and diving into another world. During her toddler years it was world of The Runaway Bunny or Peter from The Snowy Day. As she grew older, we went on adventures with Jack and Annie while other times it was the drama of Anne, Gilbert and Diana. Either way, reading was a daily occurrence from the day she was born (yes, I brought Goodnight Moon to the hospital with me) until she left to college. Obviously, as she aged up, picture books turned into easy reading books and then novels and finally magazine articles and newspapers; however, reading together never ended. And today, although she in not even thinking of marriage and her own family, I would be lying if I didn’t say I already know what books I will one day, G-d willing, read to her children.
Reading is an absolutely crucial aspect of any person’s education. It should begin the day they are born …. and never end. Research has shown that kids should be read at least one thousand books between birth and age five. One thousand books sounds like a lot; however, if you do the math, from birth to age five, there are 1825 days (365 x 5 years). In reality, this is one book every other day. With that said, if your child is like mine, we never stopped at one book. And yes, re-reading books counts! Even if you don’t start reading out loud to your child at birth, reading one story every day for three years will equate to 1095 books.
It should be for learning as well as pleasure. We are told to read to our children – that it will help them. But, in real, easy to understand terms, what are the benefits? Obviously, they are too many to name; however, here is my short “top five list.”
Reading out loud creates a family bond
Your children will fondly look back on their memories of listening to you read aloud and fondly recall favorites stories heard at your knee. It doesn’t matter if it is a new, never ever read before title or if it is a book you have read to them a gazillion times. Together, chant out the story or giggle over using “voices.” . Just because a book is considered “children’s literature”, doesn’t mean it’s childish. Most of my favorite books are written for children! A good story is a good story, and you may find that you enjoy many great books just as much as your children (if not more!). Afterwards, engage your child (ren) in discussions about the unfairness of death, issues regarding friendship, the realities or racism, and how media affects our lives.
Reading stimulates children’s imagination
When you read aloud, you don’t have to worry about “reading level” instead you can focus on “interest level.” What this means is that you can read books far above your child (ren)’s level. This allows for you to expose your children to fantasy worlds full of talking animals, knights and battles as well as distance countries… the literary world is open to you! Literature has characters that your children will want to emulate and places they want to go visit and help them identify with other cultural backgrounds.
Literature will expose them to difficult ideas and situations in a safe way
Life is full of hard truths, and what better way to learn of them than from a beautifully written story read to them by someone they love and trust? Charlotte’s Web shows that sometimes, a beloved friend dies, not from any terrible illness or violent act, but simply because it’s part of life. Literature will also build empathy – they’ll put themselves in the characters place, wondering how they would react in the same situation. Read to your children widely, about people who live far differently from them so that they can grow into compassionate and empathetic adults who will change the world.
Reading out loud to your children can increase their vocabulary and writing skills
Again, because you aren’t limited to choosing books within their reading level, you can expose them to a world of beautiful language. This will also help build their thinking skills, they’ll be more apt to use context clues. When you read good books together, you no longer need to have your child do a separate vocabulary curriculum. If you want to go deeper, you can choose a word or two from a book every day, or just pepper your normal conversations with those words that you want them to pick up. The more they hear, the richer their vocabulary will become. In addition, exposing your child to a variety of writing styles will provide them with a solid foundation in writing.
Most importantly – reading to your children will give them a love of literature
I mourn for the children who grow up thinking Winnie the Pooh is just a brightly colored cartoon character and never get to meet Charlotte and Wilbur, Sara Crewe, Charlie Bucket and Tom Sawyer. Reading aloud will give them a respect for the written word, introduce them to the wide world and the great conversation and build their cultural literacy. It will give them a legacy of great literature to pass on to their own children.
“Mission Statement.” 1000 Books Before Kindergarten,
Eva Goldstein-Meola, is not only co-founder of Open Tent Academy, but an instructor as well as a former homeschooling mother. She has lived in New Jersey, Florida, Western Massachusetts, Northern Virginia and now resides just outside of Jerusalem. Eva holds a Master’s Degree as a Consulting Teacher of Reading and Writing, IEW certification and a Bachelor’s Degree as an Elementary Teacher. She has also been involved in education since 1986 as a Private Tutor, Teacher, Reading Specialist, Homeschooling Mother, Homeschooling Teacher and Business Owner of an Online Education Consortium. In addition to teaching, Eva enjoys cooking, baking, playing Settlers of Catan, traveling with her husband Jonathan, Broadway Musicals and reading. Eva teaches a variety of literature and IEW writing courses for Open Tent Academy.
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