Inspired by my friend Hartley Goldstone’s story of how he and his wife were able to create abond between their children and their parents, who lived a great distance from Hartley and his family, by asking his parents and in-laws to tape record their reading of a favorite childhood book, I recently took two of my grandsons to Barnes & Noble. We headed straight to the children’s section. I encouraged my young grandsons to pick out one or two books that they would like to have me read to them. Before I knew it we had eight or ten books stacked high on a table. We went through a final filtering process to winnow the book selections to a number more consistent with my initial “relationship investment budget.” And then we headed to their home where I sat down with them to go through their books.
I wish now that I had taken the time to write a special inscription inside each book. Not just a “For Jack, with all my love, Abo” but a personalized expression of the hope I have that this book will contribute in a small way to their acquiring a zest for reading and a love for learning.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics, reading is a significant aid in brain development and encourages a solidifying, emotional bond between parent and child. They recommend a daily routine of reading for infants as well as older children. The Department of Education in 2003 suggested that we begin reading to infants as early as six months after birth. Unfortunately, the American Association of Pediatric estimates that only 50% of parents read to their children every day.
A child's love for reading grows when the words on the page come to life through experiences shared as a family. For example, after reading Eric Carle's Ten Little Rubber Ducksto your toddler, you can learn all about real ducks and go on a family outing to feed the ducks at a nearby pond. Or, after reading Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon you could take your child to the zoo or fill a balloon with helium and release it near your home and safely follow it as far as you can (there is a small balloon in almost every scene in Goodnight Moon and I challenge my grandsons to spot that obscure object on each page).
Other helpful tips from the Department of Education to prepare your child or grandchild to read include the following:
· Using sounds, songs, gestures, and words that rhyme to help your baby learn about language and its many uses.
· Pointing out the printed words in your home and other places you take your child, such as the grocery store.
· Spending as much time listening to your child as you do talking to her.
· Taking children's books and writing materials with you whenever you leave home. This gives your child fun activities to entertain and occupy her while traveling and running errands.
· Creating a quiet, special place in your home for your child to read, write, and draw.
· Keeping books and other reading materials where your child can easily reach them. Having her own bookshelf or small bookcase will not only make her feel special, but will also communicate to her that reading is special.
· Reading books, newspapers and magazines yourself, so that your child can see that reading is important.
· Limiting the amount and type of television you and your child watch.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”—Dr. Seuss