Sunday, February 21, 2010

Enjoying Books Together

Recently at my daughter's school, we had the annual Speech Meet, where each child in grades 3-8 memorize a selection and recite it for evaluation by three judges. (Believe it or not, most of the kids look forward to this!) One selection I heard a couple of times was "The Reading Mother" by Strickland Gillilan. Read it and you'll know why someone like me gets all excited about it.

"The Reading Mother"

I had a Mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings--
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a Mother who read to me.

-Strickland Gillilan

Reading to your child, and making a habit of it, benefits your child on so many levels I can hardly begin to name them all. Starting with a board book and your baby in your lap, your child learns to associate warm and close feelings with book time. He learns that books have interesting things in them and that when you turn the pages, new pictures appear. He learns that different stories are in different books, and develops a favorite that he wants to hear again and again.

Learning to read doesn't begin in Kindergarten. It begins in your lap. Books have words, printed words have meaning, books are read from left to right, words say the same thing every time. This is learning to read just as much as learning the sounds of the alphabet.

When you read to your child regularly and it is a pleasureable experience, your child learns the literature of the world, gains inspiration and lessons from the stories, discovers new concepts and facts and becomes a lifelong learner.

Let your child observe you enjoying a book or article - whatever you read - and share that enjoyment with him/her. Talk about what you learned or how it made you feel and why you liked it. When I read My Sister's Keeper, my girls were busy in school and didn't have time to read it themselves, so every day when they came home I would tell them what had happened in my book. Of course, the story is so compelling they couldn't wait to hear what was happening to those two sisters. It was practically the first thing I heard when they came in the door. "What happened in your book?!" It's a great way to share a love of reading.

While your kids are still very young, it's important that reading time doesn't become a power struggle. It's book time, so sit still and listen and enjoy it NOW! won't convey the happy and warm feelings you hope for. (I know you'd never do that.) If your child isn't in the mood, just set the book aside for when he/she is ready to cuddle up.

And don't forget to bring them to Storytime so I can read to them too!

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