Reading Matters



We all know that reading benefits us in numerous ways...

Whether it be increased vocabulary, improved analytical thinking, improved memory & writing skills, enhanced academic achievements and even stress reduction...we know that having a love of learning & reading is the first step...next is getting the content & level to motivate & challenge the reader.

Books began as an escape for me.  I remember my 5th grade teacher who told our class that we were required to read 100 books by the end of the school year. I was flabbergasted...We lived in a very poor city.  We had no "specials" at our school at the time, except for gym class once a week...no school library, no music, no art...K-6th grade.

I honestly have no idea where I found the books except for perhaps my church library or maybe what my teacher secretly left out in her classroom for us to "find". I was motivated back then and I wasn't going to let a lack of resources stop me from achieving my teacher's goal.  And, whatever it was, I found a love...

Books took me to another place...where the fact that I was bullied didn't matter...whether my parents were divorced held no baring on my "popularity"...where the worries of a little sister's heart condition & open heart surgeries were tucked away for awhile so that the crying & churning in my stomach could settle for just awhile.

Oh, I escaped into different worlds and different characters and I soared...

Fortunately, that desire never left either...I still have a passion for literature...I'm not as "risky" as I was back then...I have somewhat fallen into certain genres that I like and I tend to stick to them...Occassionally, I step out of my comfort zone and read a *gasp* non-fiction book...OR even a dystopian fantasy...heaven help me!!!

Therefore, I started reading aloud to my own daughters when they were still inside the womb.  While I was at home awaiting the arrival of my firstborn, I would read stories outloud...just to "practice" my different voices and inflections...

When each one of my girls arrived, I didn't stop there.  I spent hours reading to them, taking them to storytimes (all the while bribing them with fruit snacks to sit and listen to stories read by others) And even though my old girls are teenagers and my youngest is approaching double digits, I STILL read to them...

Somewhere along the way, instead of being an "escape"...it became a way to "CONNECT"...

It's safe because it's not me "parenting" them or giving them lectures about this and that...it's calming because after long days of school & peer interactions, they need that "escape" too...what they don't fully comprehend just yet is that because I'm alongside for the ride, they get to "escape" WITH me!

I don't even know if that makes complete sense, but I know that when I close a book, after weeks of reading with my girls, I am always in awe of how that time together has grown us...given us a memory...a connection...in a non-threatening and even exciting way...

I thought I'd give a few "guidelines" for read-alouds that I've learned from not only teaching in my own classroom from the past, but having learned with my own kids...

1. Choose a book to the level of your oldest, but content in the middle. Younger kids understand more than what we give them credit.  At the same time, the content needs to be such that will not only keep the interest of the oldest, but not be inappropriate or too mature for the youngest.

2. Gradually increase your reading time & leave room for "one more chapter MOM!!!" Young ones often can't deal with more than 5-10 minutes at a time...and that might only be one picture book when you are first starting off.  I remember using books on tape for car rides to just have that in the background when we drove places as "white noise"...eventually, as my girls got older, they would catch part of the story and we'd find ourselves parked in a parking lot with them begging me to not turn the car off yet so they could keep listening!  We are all tired at the end of the day, but try to build in an extra 3-5 minutes so that if they do beg for "just a little more" you can indulge them...(and they LOVE IT!)

3. Let them work with their hands while you read.  When my girls were not even a year old and we went to storytime, I would give them fruit snacks one at a time for them to finger and put in their mouths.  I wouldn't let them run around and get concentrated on other things during a storytime, but I would allow them to work with their hands while they listened.  To this day, my girls will brush each other's hair, draw/color, or work on beading or legos while I read stories.  However, more times that naught, they just want to get close to me listen...it never gets old.

4. Use vocal expressions. I cannot stress this enough...MAKE IT FUN...get excited when you read, read fast & slow, loud and quiet, make up voices...Read it outloud like you are auditioning for a play...YOU are the performer in this "show".

(In case you have time to waste and want to be tickled pink...you can watch my youngest retell the GRUFFALO story in her tiny 3 year old voice)


5. Make it personal. Interject your own feelings...let them know that you are INto the book too.  Sound out words, laugh at your own mistakes while reading...get mad at characters and LIVE the story with your kids.  Remember, it's an "escape" into another world, but you're IN that world with them...this is another way to "connect" with them too!

For those that missed my last book listing...here are some good read louds for kids!  These are just a few of my favorites and many, you have heard me talk about before :)  My favorite authors for little kids have been C.S. Lewis, E.B. White and Gertrude Warner and Sara Pennypacker...as the kids got older, I got into other authors and different genres...

Have FUN!

Kenny & the Dragon
The Miraculous Adventures of Edward Trulane
The Penderwicks
The Trumpet of the Swan
Narnia Series
Tuck Everlasting
Princess Academy
Clementine Series
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The One & Only Ivan
Wonder
Harry Pottery #1 (let them continue the series when appropriate)
Half Magic
Frindle
Boxcar Children #1 (let them continue the series)
Castle in the Attic
Charlie & the Chocolate Factory OR James & the Giant Peach
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Where the Red Fern Grows
Anne of Green Gables
Charlotte's Web

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