Parents often ask me how they can help their children become better readers. Most parents already know about the importance of reading to and with their children and are thrilled to do so for both the bonding it provides between parent and child and for the research-proven benefits of helping children hear examples of proper inflection, intonation, expression and overall fluency. Many parents are often enlightened to discover that equally important are their conversations with their children before, during, and after reading a piece of text.
Have you read Harry Potter? This is one of the first questions I ask my students each year. This summer, the world is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Harry Potter Series. Is Harry Potter the single greatest children’s book series of all time? Well, author J.K. Rowling is the first author to become a billionaire based on writing books. Though notable for this milestone, I believe the series’ greatest achievement is the countless reluctant readers who have become avid readers thanks to the trip through platform nine and three-quarters.
Do you remember being a child and sitting on your parent’s lap or maybe
snuggling in bed with your mom or dad as you listened to a great book? I have wonderful memories of snuggling with my mom as she read books to my sister and me during our childhood. The Pokey Puppy published by Little Golden Books and so many of the I Can Read books, such as Danny and the Dinosaur or Little Bear, were a few of my top favorites. And I’ll never forget the annual reading of The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. I still have my original copies of all these books, and during reading group time I have even shown my first graders my copy of Danny and the Dinosaur. It has my name handwritten in crayon on the inside cover. Snuggling up with my mom and a good book helped me learn to enjoy reading and all the adventures that books can take you on in your lifetime. Being read to as a child may very well be the reason why I’ve always loved reading aloud to my students and also my own children.
Books make meaningful gifts. If you’ve ever made a reading recommendation that mattered to someone else, or received a book at just the right moment in your own life, you know how impactful giving and receiving books can be. Luckily, there are many resources to help you find the perfect gift to give this holiday season. For instance, goodreads.com features lists and reviews from fellow book lovers. You can join the site and contribute your own reviews, or just browse for books by genre. If you are looking for a recommendation for your child, you may want to check the reviews on commonsensemedia.org. Books are reviewed by age, content, and even the protagonist's character traits.
Do you believe that summer reading helps or harms a child’s desire to read?
This is a debate going on at schools across the nation, and both sides make some strong points. Even though my school does assign reading, we discuss its purpose each year as the school year draws to a close.There are many factors to consider, including how to choose a book that the majority of students will enjoy, whether to direct the students to a list of books or assign one for the entire group, whether to include a writing element, and finally, whether to assign reading over the summer at all.
Curiosity vs. Intelligence
Research has shown that a person’s Curiosity Quotient (CQ) is as important as their Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Most classroom teachers would agree that qualities like curiosity and work ethic tend to outweigh intelligence in student performance. But how can parents help their children to develop curiosity? It turns out there are several ways. One is through play. By allowing children the space and time to interact with one another, they will develop both curiosity and imagination. Another is through reading. Books can take students on a journey to foreign places, throw them into the middle of a mystery, or surround them with a dystopian world. Books can help students discover people who are like them, or who are very, very different. Reading can lead to a deeper interest in the world as it is, and help students imagine how it could be.
In my 20+ years working in education, I have found that books can strongly influence young children. My favorite class by far in college was my children’s literature class. I dreaded taking this class as I heard it was a very time consuming class with many hours per night in assignments. Boy, was I wrong to dread it! I had a brilliant professor who taught me to look beyond the words and the pictures for the meanings in the simple stories brought to us in children’s books. Ever since that class, I find myself always drawn to the children’s books section in any book store. When I give a Chapel talk here at Montgomery School, which is a character-based presentation, I usually choose a book to illustrate my points.
Every year in June, young children finish the school year, and are ready to begin their summer vacation, ready for a change from the normal structure of a school day. Children need time to relax during the summer months. As Jessica Lahey notes in her June 2014 article in the Atlantic, "unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children."
Fostering a love of reading in your child is one of the most important and impactful things you can do. Reading is elemental to education, and the more children enjoy reading, and the better their reading comprehension, the more they are likely to engage in their education. Read below to see how you can make this difference for your child.