Too many Americans are unable to read above a sixth-grade level and even more choose not to read. Yet, if children are exposed to reading at an early age, they are more likely to make it a part of their adult life. As parents, it is our responsibility to be role models for literacy – begin reading to children when they are infants, impart the value of reading to nurture their budding imagination, and demonstrate a love for the written word.
Countless books are now produced in “board book” format, making them virtually indestructible, and many books are illustrated with colorful pictures that appeal to the youngest “reader.” Children’s books can be found in libraries and thrift stores so every child can have the experience of holding a book in his hands.
Suggestions for Reading to Your Child
Reading a story is more than just speaking the words on a page. Reading is a conversation, a conversation between you, your child, and the characters in the story. Encourage discussion and interaction by pointing out the pictures in the book and by allowing them to trigger your child’s imagination. Look for ways to encourage your child to express his thoughts and feelings about situations in the book and how he might relate these situations to his own life. These types of experiences teach your child that a book is his friend, a friend that provides a gateway to exciting and interesting people and places.
Choosing Appropriate Books
What kinds of books are appropriate for your young child? Screen books by evaluating age appropriateness, length (based on your child’s attention span), subject matter, the quality of the pictures and/or illustrations, and whether you think you would enjoy reading it again and again. The book should challenge your child just enough to pique her curiosity and stimulate the discussion of new ideas. And remember that children enjoy humor and silliness. While books that promote movies and TV shows may be popular, be careful in making these choices. These books can sometimes be poorly written, and fairy tales are best saved for older children who won’t be scared by wicked villains.
There is currently a trend toward writing children’s books on subjects such as divorce, death, illness and disability, homosexuality, child abuse, racism, blended families, and other societal issues. These books can be helpful if you need to discuss these topics with your child. However, if your child is not facing such an issue, reading these types of books may cause your child to worry or have questions that you may not prepared to answer.
If any book proves to be boring or inappropriate, you are not required to finish reading it. Put it away for a few months or give it to another child. If your child really loves a book, he’ll ask you to read it over and over. If you do, you will instill a passion for reading that will last a lifetime.
Eleanor Reynolds is the editor of The Best of the Problem-Solver: Articles for Parents and Teachers and the author of Guiding Young Children: A Problem-Solving Approach.
Classic Children’s Books for Your Home Library
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault
Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst