Jan 31, 2011

Reading and Children

I have many, many opinions on this subject. I am actually extremely passionate about it. And to think it all happened by 'accident'.

Many moons ago, when I was pregnant with my firstborn, a teacher friend of mine gave me a book titled, "The Read Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease. I devoured the book. I had never given that much thought to reading to children, much less reading aloud to them. That was the beginning of our long, wonderful journey into the world of reading and children and the joy that comes with it.

I immediately signed up for the Grolier Book of the Month Club when I was still pregnant. I wanted Gavin's bookshelf stocked with appropriate reading material. At the time, it consisted of all the best Dr. Seuss had to offer. I received several board books for baby showers. I was bound and determined to do this parent thing right and by golly, I'm going to be the best read aloud mommy ever.

So, it will come as no surprise that Chuck found me sitting on the bed with Gavin propped up on my legs while I was holding a black, white and red board book above him talking about the pictures and 'reading to him'. All this and he was only 2 weeks old. Poor kid. He can't help how he turned out. He was destined to be in love with books from day one. He had no choice. The book told me to read to him - so that's what I did. I so desperately wanted to be such a good mommy...not having a clue as to how to do this whole parent thing, this was something I knew I could do, so I just ran with it.

Over a decade later, I've seen the fruit of those first, obsessive-compulsive years of my initiation into parenthood. Reading together has become a part of our love language. We all love to sit snuggled up and read a good book together or apart. We love to talk about our books - with anyone who will listen. We appreciate a good book sale. We treasure our personal libraries. All because some sweet person had the foresight to encourage a new mom to read to her kid.

Kids minds soar when they read. It takes their imagination to new levels. Their creativity levels go through the roof. Freedom to think outside the box is a beautiful gift. If a new movie comes out, my children ask to read the book first because, and I quote, they "don't want the movie to ruin their imagination of what the book is really like." Love it. Time alone with their thoughts is essential. It's how they grow and process new ideas and discoveries.

Gavin's voracious reading habits are no secret. Neither is Chloe's teaching herself to read at 4 and reading so prim and proper. But Bennett got bitten by the reading bug a little later. He's always loved reading with me. But he was never one to read much on his own until recently. Well, now he's gone and exceeded his own expectations. He started the book "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini, all on his own. If I had told him, "Bennett, I want you to read a 497 page book that's really cool all on your own" it never, ever, ever would have happened. But, because he's interested (another passion of mine - interest driven learning), he's reading this monster book all on his own - and loving it!

Any time he meets one of his friends for a playdate or anything, the first thing out of his mouth is, "Have you read Eragon yet? It was written by a 15 year old boy. It's really cool." So far, none of his friends have initiated a conversation about the merits of the book. But I have a feeling if he just keeps asking, someday, somewhere, someone will engage him in a lively conversation about this amazing book. Until then, Gavin will have to do. They discuss the book over lunch, dinner, playtime. They speak the language from the glossary. Chloe and I may break down and read it just so we don't feel left out anymore.

To quote C.S. Lewis, "We read to know we are not alone."


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