Get a blanket, sit out in the yard, and cuddle up with some books. It is so important to read to young children. Children who are exposed to books during their early years learn skills that will serve them throughout their entire lives. Reading helps children build communication and language skills, learn new concepts, and develop longer attention spans and memory retention. Start early, and teach children that reading is FUN!
Infants will absorb new words and concepts while enjoying sitting on your lap and hearing the sound of your voice. Reading aloud encourages a pre-reading skill called “print motivation”- babies become interested when they see printed words. They can learn to have positive associations with reading activities. Choose books with repetitive words and colorful, high contrast illustrations. Board books are sturdy enough to hold up to teething and pulling.
Good choices for infants:
More, More, More, Said the Baby, by Vera B. Williams, Greenwillow Press, 1996
Baby Faces, by DK Publishing, 1998
Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton, Little Simon Press, 1982
Sliding Surprise Books: Who's There? by Charles Reasoner, Price, Stern, Sloan 2003
Reading helps toddlers to build “print awareness” as they begin to realize that printed text makes words. Text that is singsong and rhythmic helps toddlers to have fun with language. You can introduce concepts (such as colors and shapes), and information, (such as names of farm animals). Remember that in the second half of their second year, most babies have what is a “naming explosion” because they are building their vocabulary and learning new words (especially nouns) so quickly. Choose sturdy books with repetitive phrases and words. Toddlers still need adults to help them appreciate books, most are not yet able to “read on their own.” Make sure that their associations with books are positive, and avoid attempting to quiet rowdy children by forcing them to “sit and read a book”.
Good choices for toddlers:
Ten, Nine, Eight, by Molly Bang, Greenwillow Press, 2003
Sheep in a Jeep, by Nancy Shaw, Houghtin Mifflin Harcourt ,1997
Freight Train by Donald Crews, Greenwillow Press, 2003
Reading to preschoolers helps them to learn narrative skills and to develop a love of reading and story-telling. Preschoolers are also beginning to recognize letters and to develop phonological awareness. Preschoolers can learn how to safely handle a book and to follow text on a page. Help them by pointing out the words on the page as you are reading. (Children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the pictures.) Emphasize the rhymes and the sounds, and say words with sounds chunks left out to encourage the preschooler to supply the correct word. Use the illustrations to help them to guess and predict what may be happening on the page.
Good choices for preschoolers:
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems, Hyperion Press, 2003
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, by Doreen Cronin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000
Edward the Emu, by Sheena Knowles, Harper Collins, 1998
Kindergarten and School age:
Older children enjoy books with silly stories and whimsical characters. They are also able to learn about social issues and topics in books such as Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (teasing) Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf, (being different) The Kissing Hand, by Audry Penn (separation) and The Lorax by Dr Seuss (environmental issues).
As children learn to read independently, they can be encouraged to read chapter books with more detailed plots and characters. Good choices are classics such as Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Montgomery, or The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo.
With a library card and a computer, getting new and interesting books for children is quick and simple. The Mid Hudson library system http://midhudson.org/ has access to dozens of libraries and thousands of books. Simply set up an on-line account and you can request any book you are interested in to be delivered to your nearest library. The library will notify you when the book is available, typically within a few days. (You can join a waiting list for new or popular books) Many libraries have suggested reading lists, or you can find one at the American Library Association’s website: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/notalists