What is it about picture books from childhood that is so alluring? I think at first it’s the images. Children are stimulated by images that jump-start the imagination and help a child relate. Isn’t that the charm of GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown? The red balloon and the three bears and the toyhouse are things a child knows and can point to. Then the writer adds those wonderful words that rhyme and a gem is born. The words on the page take the image and enlarge it–the child’s imagination begins to work–and finally, the child makes up her own rhyme with things in her world.
That’s how love of words becomes super-charged. What follows? A love of reading. The gears in that wonderful new brain are set in motion and reading and exploring books becomes a joy and a desire.
Author Martin Amis says: I must have read GOODNIGHT MOON to my children several thousand times, and I was never bored by it. The book has its own soporific poetry–and it quite often worked.”
Books, Books and More Books
Another wonderful aspect of starting a child on the reading journey is the trip to the library. There the world of books is broad and big and exciting. Children race to the stacks and start pulling books from a shelf. To guide them in their choices, here is a list from TIME of the top ten books for children ages 3-11. See how many of these you read as a child or you have read to your children and grandchildren.
1. Where the Wild Thing Are, Maurice Sendak, 2. The Snow Day, Ezra Jack Keats,3. Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown, 4. Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey, 5. the LIttle Bear (series), Else Holmelund Minarik, 6. Owl Moon, John Schoenherr, 7. The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein, 8. The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith, 9. Tuesday, David Wiesner, 10. Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein.
Others on the list include: Frog & Toad (series), The Lorax, Corduroy, Brave Irene, Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Make Way for Duckings and Olivia (series).
Emphasizing the importance of reading helps a child establish what educators call print awareness. The National Institute for Literacy states: Print awareness is an important part of knowing how to read and write. Children who know about print understand that the words they see in print and the words they speak and hear are related.
It’s not difficult to encourage print awareness in children on a daily basis. In doing so you are helping them on the road to literacy. While shopping at any store, children can be made aware of print that shows where food items are. Children exposed to television often recognize products like cereal from the bold colors of the packaging, but stressing the words on the package helps underline print awareness. Working with alphabet letters you can show how letters work together to 1.) tell a story; 2) list choices on a menu; 3) warn of danger; 4) give directions. Print awareness can be emphasized and reinforced through daily living.
There’s nothing more exciting than receiving that first print message from your child or grandchild. They are totally proud and you receive their love and excitement about life through a medium of their own creation.
You might enjoy this You Tube that explains Print Awareness.
Books As They Grow
Once a love of print and reading is established just watch them go! My granddaughter can get so involved in a book that she sometimes doesn’t hear us saying goodnight. In a few more years, she will be devouring the next list: the top 10 books for young adults ages 12 and up. They include: 1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, 2. Harry Potter (series), 3.The Book Thief, 4. A Wrinkle in Time, 5. Charlotte’s Web, 6.Holes, 7.Matilda, 8. The Outsiders, 9. The Phantom Tollbooth and 10. The Giver. Others on the list include: Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, To Kill a Mockingbird, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Anne of Green Gables (series), The Chronicles of Narnia (series), Monster, The Golden Compass, The Diary of a Young Girl, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweller, Looking for Alaska, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Little House on the Prairie (series), The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Wonder, The Once and Future King (series).
Nonfiction writer Michael Lewis says: As a kid I lived on a steady diet of The Hardy Boys and Archie comic books, without the slightest sense there was anything better I might be doing with my time.
All reading starts us on a continuous print journey. As we grow, more and more our ability to read and understand print is the difference between educated choices and confusion or the inability to progress in life. Facility with reading and understanding enriches our lives and helps us navigate documents, educate ourselves about jobs, health, travel, legal obligations, purchasing options–the list is endless.
How satisfying to realize that reading a favorite newspaper, magazine or book continues to increase our print awareness. Computer technology is changing so rapidly, it is said that what students learn in the first 3 years of computer tech will be outdated when it’s time for them to graduate. Speed reading, anyone?
Good News: How to Help a Child’s Cognitive Development
Finally, the Institute for Education states that surprisingly, reading for pleasure was found to be more important for a child’s cognitive development between ages 10 and 16 than their parents’ level of education. “The combined effect on children’s progress of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was four times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.”
So love those words–and get thee to the library. Shakespeare would agree.
Watch: CBS News celebrates immortal children’s books. See how many of the books pictured you read as a child! Watch it here.
Thanks to Time Magazine, December 2014
So glad I have a granddaughter and a well-read copy of Goodnight Moon.