Building Bonds through Books
Mother’s Day Musings
by Lezlie Evans
Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my mother taking me on her lap to read from the pages of my big, green, story book Make Way for Ducklings, and listening to her read Go Dog Go over and over again. I can’t help but wonder—did these childhood experiences play into my wanting to become a children’s book author and help to create the desire I had to open up the world of books to my own children?
A mother truly does hold the power to shape a child’s attitudes, attributes, and interests. James E. Faust said, “The influence of a mother in the lives of her children is beyond calculation.” This thought can be daunting.
Although there is not one ‘right’ way to parent or to care for your little one, I, like so many other new mothers, found myself wishing there was a detailed instruction manual accompanying my child. When the first of my six children was born, I recall looking down and thinking two things: “That’s the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen, followed by, What in the world do I do now?”
So here is my instruction manual for mothers—a guide on how to instill the love of books and reading in your child. The following ideas, time tested, tried, and true, can help to create strong bonds and cherished memories, while laying down the foundation of early literacy skills—skills which will be critical to a child’s success in school and in life.
Did you know experts have found the number one contributing factor to a child’s success when he enters kindergarten is the number of hours he has been read aloud to by someone who is close to him? Every minute spent reading with your child will help to develop skills which will benefit your child for a lifetime.
The sharing of books will build a child’s vocabulary, stimulates imagination, and increases verbal skills, while creating strong bonds and memories. That was the gift my mother gave me, and one that I, in turn, sought to give to my children.
Start the day your child is born:
Children learn to love the sound of language before they even notice the existence of printed words on a page. From the day a child is born, the sound of your voice brings comfort, begins patterning, and provides stimulation. Talk, sing, coo and goo with your baby beginning from day one.
Time spent reading with your baby gives him what he craves most; closeness with you and the opportunity to hear the sound of your voice. There are an abundance of wonderful books these days that can be held by little hands and allowing infants to handle books will deepen their attachment to them.
When reading with your infant:
~Have a variety of board books, soft books, touch and feel books, and picture books.
~Guide your little one by pointing to the pictures and say the names of the various objects. Drawing their attention to the pictures will encourage word association and your child will learn the importance of language.
~Encourage them to point to the pictures you describe.
~Read often, but keep the sessions brief.
~Don’t be afraid to create funny voices, vary your pitch, and change your expression. Be animated!
~When the rhythm and melody of language become a part of a child's life, learning to read will be as natural as learning to walk and talk.
A regular reading time—like bedtime— establishes a calming routine young children love. But there are many other daily events which provide perfect reading opportunities. Try having a breakfast story, a bath time story, a just-home-from-nursery story or even an on-the-potty story. Some toddlers (and older children) who have a hard time waking up in the morning do better if their parents read them awake with a ‘good- morning’ story.
Tips for reading with toddlers include:
~Take your child on your lap and read every day. Encourage them to choose the books.
~Don’t worry if your child doesn’t seem interested at first. Just keep at it! My fifth child never seemed too interested in books, but we read anyway. He would often wander off to play in the middle of a story while his brothers and sisters would sit, listening attentively. Although he responded differently than our other children, our consistent efforts paid. In the third grade, something clicked and he became a voracious reader.
~Take your toddler to the local library for weekly visits. Sign up for story time and other programs and let them pick out books to carry in their ‘special library bag’.
~Follow with your finger as you read. This will help engrain the pattern of reading from left to right.
~When reading, pause and let the child fill in the blank. Rhyming books are great for this. The child can begin to predict the missing words and feel a great sense of triumph.
~Encourage your children to pretend to read. As they get older, encourage them to create their own stories and books.
Emergent and independent readers:
Reading with your pre-school child lays the foundation for success at school, while continuing to read with an independent reader builds on that foundation.
~Visit the public library; allow your child get a library card if possible. Help your child select books on his reading level.
~Get to know your local children’s librarians. They can be an invaluable resource, as they will help your child find the perfect books, with the appropriate appeal.
~Listening to an emergent or independent reader is just as important as reading to them. Praise their new skills.
~When reading with your child, take turns. Read a page, and then let your child read a page.
~Have a set family reading time where everyone “stops, drops, and reads”— even if it is only for 10 minutes a day.
~How many TVs are in your home? Do you have just as many baskets filled with library books? Have a basket or box for books in every room.
~Give books as gifts and encourage others to give your child books.
~Limit TV and computer time.
~Get caught reading by your kid—whether it is the newspaper, a magazine, or a book. Researchers have found a child’s attitude about reading and their reading development are influenced by parental reading habits.
My mom helped instill a love of books in me without a laundry list like this one. But keep in mind; forty years ago there were neither the electronic distractions nor the plethora of activities that our children face today.
Modern moms need to be vigilant in their efforts to create a reading atmosphere in the home, provide opportunities for reading, and model reading themselves. But I have great faith in you, the mother’s of today. You are dedicated to your child’s success.
I am confident that one day your child will look back and say, I remember when my mom used to read me that book to me over and over again. That book is my favorite!
Lezlie Evans is a mother of six and a published children’s book author. Her latest title, WHO LOVES THE LITTLE LAMB, published by Disney/Hyperion and illustrated by award winning artist, David McPhail, is the story of a mother’s unconditional love. Read more about her and her books online at www.lezlieevans.com.
Watch the book trailer for Who Loves the Little Lamb? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgVGCLdhcZ4
Mother's Day is an excellent opportunity to incorporate family reading. Browse through our feature, and those from previous years, for stories to share with any mothers in your life. http://www.childrenslit.com/childrenslit/th_mothersday.html.