Before October flies by, I wanted to review and remind the readers that this month is National Book Month. I know we have so many modern ways of reading stories, but nothing takes the place of a good book. I look forward to reading books every Tuesday to early childhood children at Trinity United Methodist Church. Being older, I absolutely love the way these children engage in the stories by asking questions, doing coloring pages and so many other staff-supported activities.
Children love to listen to a book being read. From toddlers on up in age, they sit spellbound as books are being read with pictures. I love to visit the new Opelika Public Library and check out many wonderful books that go with the letter the preschoolers are studying each week, or books with seasonal themes. The staff at the library go the extra mile in helping teachers and parents find what is needed to teach young children. In the Opelika City Schools, as an elementary student in the early childhood grades, I can still remember how much I looked forward to the 30 minutes each day that our teachers would read to us — usually after lunch. These were usually chapter books, and we couldn’t wait to hear what the next chapter was all about. I can still remember getting lost in the mystery series “Nancy Drew,” written under the collective names as a pseudonym, Carolyn Keene.
Since 2002, October has been recognized as National Book Month. Reading has so many benefits in overall learning. We gain knowledge from reading. Our vocabulary increases as we read and learn new words. Our memories are exercised as our brains remember the characters in the book, how the plot unfolds and other details that contribute to the story. Reading books contributes to sensory and mental stimulation, as well as reduces stress.
With all the benefits of reading books, how can we, as educators and parents, encourage our children to love reading? Here are some tips I have gained from experience, but have also gleaned from other teachers and parents.
1. Reading aloud to your children benefits and encourages them to love books. From one of my earlier articles, “Babies Can Read Too!”, babies and young children can listen to your voice, see the pictures and help you turn the thick cardboard pages and vinyl books. Young children can express a choice of the books they want to read. Preschool children love for us to read their favorite books over and over. This is where we teachers and parents can simply meet the need.
2. Provide books around your home. In the preschool and elementary classroom, I love to see children totally absorbed and engaged in looking at books in the Book Center. Providing books, newspapers and magazines reinforces the importance of reading and the enjoyment of reading books. Guide young children on how to take good care of their books.
3. Have your children choose books they will enjoy. As I have said before, our local libraries and staff are so good in guiding parents, teachers and children to the books in which they are showing interest.
4. Show or model to children how much you enjoy reading. Share with them what you are reading, and ask them to read along with you. Have you ever noticed that members of the Greater Generation of our society are avid readers? I see them reading in libraries, at home and outside on pretty days. Their model encourages this Baby Boomer to want to read more to gain wisdom and enjoyment. Also, our community seniors do a wonderful job in intergenerational outreach to our young children.
5. Reading is a wonderful entertainment activity for children and their families. Choosing a night to read and share a good book also strengthens family relations over the different ages within the family. During sharing time, remove the distractions of television and phone. The entertainment is free.
6. Also, October is recognized as National Reading Group Month. Its mission is to promote the values of books and reading. Gathering a group of friends to form a book club can provide fellowship with new friends where you read passages from chosen books and discuss the content. When volunteering with the elderly in facilities, I absolutely love to be a part of their book clubs, which usually meet once a month. This same form of fellowship can be done with children, too, in meeting at homes and having inexpensive book-themed clubs.
Abraham Lincoln emphasized the value of books so well: “The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who’ll give me a book I haven’t read.”