Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Some Time in Your Family's Schedule for Reading

Before my first son was born, a co-worker (and mother of a bright preschooler with a huge vocabulary) told me that the best advice she'd received was to read to her child every day.  Now that I’m a parent I can say I agree wholeheartedly.  This wasn’t a new concept for me or my husband, we’d grown up in reading households with parents who read to us and took us to the library.  I recall trips to our town’s local library with my mother and sister fondly.  My mother in law would tell her son (an avid bookworm) to get outside, even with his book, just get outside!  He would go climb a tree on the family farm and read there.  From the very start I read to my son.  I would read to him while I rocked him to sleep, while in the swing, during tummy time, and by the time he was able to talk he would ask me to read "a big pile of books".  Both of my boys knew from a young age that if they asked mom or dad to read to them we'd drop whatever we were doing to read to them.

It makes me cringe to hear a parent say that they don't read to their child.  “He or she doesn't have the attention span...yet,” they’ll say.  Where do you think they learn to have an attention span?  Or to hear parents say their child is too young, that they're afraid their child will rip up the pages.  How do you think they'll learn to treat a book gently unless you show them and let them practice?  I think a great gift for a new parent is a picture book with a roll of tape.

This fall I was volunteering at my son's school book fair when I came upon a book called the Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.  I just finished it and found it to be interesting.  Most of the studies and statistics support the importance of reading aloud to children were not surprising to me and supported what I already found to be true with my own young children.  I did learn some new concepts like the fact that children have a reading level and a listening level, and that you should continue reading to your child long after they can read to themselves.  It also rekindled my passion for reading to my children and introduced me to some important ideas that I'd like to implement in my household.

Be a Reading Role Model
Reading at the family farm over winter break

One thing that I had not considered until reading this book is the importance of modeling reading to my children.  I enjoy reading, but with all that is crammed into a typical day and the distractions that pop up constantly I have to make it a priority to set aside time to read or it just won’t happen.  If there’s no deadline, and no immediate need (like laundry, dishes and feeding my family) then it easily gets pushed to the side.  But this book reminded me that being an adult reading role model for my kids should get just as high a ranking as the other important tasks of daily life.  It doesn’t have to be an extended amount of time, and it can be any reading material: book, newspaper, magazine etc.  I know this to be a problem in other households too because I tried to start a book club/playgroup for moms and toddlers.  I had a tough time finding other moms that liked to read.  Then once I had a small group going, one of the reasons it fell through was because the majority of the group couldn’t find time to finish a book!  Even moms who enjoyed reading!  Isn’t it sad?  A book discussion where one or more of the participants is sharing based on the reviews they read about the book on amazon is not sustainable!  There were also some personality dynamics that didn’t work within that group, then one devoted member moved out of state and that was the end of that.  The thing I was benefiting from the group was that it created a deadline for me.  My personal issue with reading isn’t that I don’t like to read, I do, it’s because I don’t make time for it unless I have a deadline, and a monthly book group created the deadline I needed.  I’m still keeping my eye out for a group that might be more successful.

On Limiting Screen Time

“…the greatest academic damage done may not be by the content of the shows viewed but by what is not being done during those hours…the games not played, the chores not done, the drawings not drawn, the hobbies not worked, the friends not made or played with, the homework not done, the bikes or skateboards not ridden, the balls not caught, the books not read, the conversations not held.” –Jim Trelease

I noticed friends with older children had different methods of limiting their screen time.  When I was expecting my first child I devoured any information on parenting I could find and one tidbit that stuck was that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not allowing children under two years of age any screen time.  When my son was an infant I would seat him facing away from the TV when it was on and once he was big enough to move on his own he would reposition himself to see whatever was on the screen so I would only have it on if he was napping or after bedtime.  Once my boys were two we allowed them a set limit each day (and many days they watched less than the maximum limit).  I found that I preferred kids programming on PBS best, my kids did learn while being entertained and the plot lines and concepts spilled over into their playtime in ways that were creative, making meaningful connections.  I love the quote above because it makes such a great point.  No matter how good quality the programming is, when they are watching TV they are not doing other things and are missing out.

Not Sure What to Read-Aloud?

The last section of the book is devoted to a “giant treasury of great read-aloud books”.  They are categorized by length (picture books, short novels and novels) with a short description and recommended age range.  A smaller version is available at his website: along with excerpts from his handbook.  If you are curious about this Read-Aloud Handbook the website will give you a good preview of what the book has to offer.

How do you encourage your creative little hearts to fall in love with books and reading? What results have you observed from reading to your child?

No comments:

Post a Comment