The Importance of Reading with Your Kids
Bob Kamm grew up loving books, so it was no surprise that he went on to study English literature in college. Currently residing in Central America and working as an English tutor, Bob also goes by “Gaga,” a nickname given to him by his children for what reason he still doesn’t know. Bob’s favorite authors include Walker Percy, Jorge Borges, and Dr. Seuss. You can’t follow Bob/Gaga on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or Tumblr because he’s not on those sites—he’s too busy reading.
With summer right around the corner, there comes the threat of “summer slump,” which, as author Jim Trelease explains in The Read-Aloud Handbook, is the intellectual setback students experience during summer vacation. But what if we could fight summer slump while making the process fun? The good news is that there’s a way to do this: read to your kids.
Reading to your kids is vastly underrated, and if you care about your children’s mental development and academic future, you will start reading aloud more often to them. In his book Trelease quotes a former admissions counselor who says, “The best SAT preparation course in the world is to read to your children in bed when they’re little. Eventually, if that’s a wonderful experience for them, they’ll start to read to themselves.”
And for parents who have children who can already read—guess what? You’re not off the hook. Reading aloud is still important. Trelease points out that children can listen to and enjoy stories that are beyond their own reading comprehension abilities and that in doing so they will be exposed to a wider range of vocabulary. And this is vital, for Trelease writes, “The one prekindergarten skill that matters above all others, because it is the prime predictor of school success or failure, is the child’s vocabulary upon entering school.” Sobering words indeed, but they serve as motivation.
Let’s Make Reading Fun!
Reading aloud, moreover, is also about bonding. So not only are you helping your children’s imagination and vocabulary, but you’re sharing the experience with them!
I don’t have the space to adequately summarize everything Trelease writes about; therefore, you’ll need to read his book. “But,” you say, “I’m not really much of a reader myself.” Trelease also addresses this argument by asking how a reading environment can be fostered in the home if mommy and daddy are never seen by their children to be reading a book, magazine, or newspaper. It’s up to you, the parent, to foster the environment, but that is going to be difficult when you can’t tear yourself away from Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
Furthermore, many of us don’t realize—or have forgotten—how amazing our public libraries really are. You can borrow just about any book (and for free!). So load the kids in the car, go to your local library, and check out books for everyone (including yourself). This is one of the best things you could ever do for your children.
For more information on Jim Trelease, please see his website: http://www.trelease-on-reading.com
And check out this amazing TEDx Talk on the importance of reading aloud to children: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZBuT2wdYtpM
Feel free to drop me a line with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some personal favorites of mine (in no particular order):
- Author Adam Rubin and illustrator Daniel Salmieri have teamed up for some really amazing books, the most famous of which is Dragons Love Tacos.
But be sure to check out Secret Pizza Party as well.
- Anything by Richard Scarry. You might actually recall his books from your childhood. I know I do. Remember Lowly Worm, Huckle Cat and all the other characters from BusyTown? Of all of Scarry’s books, Cars and Trucks and Things that Go may be my favorite.
- One of my children’s current favorites is Dog Man (and its sequels) by author/illustrator Dav Pilkey, who is also the genius behind the Captain Underpants books. Dog Man, which is less picture book than comic book, has plenty of silliness and had me laughing out loud several times.
- Ever wonder what goes on in the fridge when you’re not looking? Try reading Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, which features an epic scramble to determine who gets the last bit of maple syrup.
- When Dinosaurs Came With Everything is a great story (especially for boys). It’s about a kid who gets a free dinosaur everywhere he goes! His mother is not amused.