“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage,” said C.S. Lewis, beloved author of literary classics such as The Chronicles of Narnia. He insisted, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story.”
When I was an education major many years ago, a children’s literature professor read aloud from Lewis’s novel, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to our class. I was 20 years old – and I leaned forward and listened as my professor changed voices of characters.
When he read the words on the last page, he asked, “Did you enjoy that?”
We gleefully nodded.
“Are you too old to hear someone read aloud a story to you?”
We enthusiastically expressed our appreciation and cheered, “No!”
“Remember that when you become teachers,” he said. “Class dismissed.”
I remembered. Storytelling invites us into new new worlds and offers opportunities to build relationships with one another.
A good book opens a child’s mind to imagination and creative problem-solving skills. A large body of research shows that children who have had an adult read to them enter elementary school with a vocabulary that contains more than 35,000 words than those who have not shared their experiences.
“Today we live in a world full of digital information, yet reading has never been more important,” insists Richard Robinson, president and CEO of Scholastic, Inc. “We’ve learned that reading and the ability to read is the door opener to the 21st century.”
The educational gap between successful and struggling students widens as they age. Children who struggle with reading skills experience greater absenteeism, more difficulty completing homework, and lag behind students with reading mastery skills. Reading skills equip children with tools to experience success in all school subjects. Reading is the key to lifelong learning.
- Develop reading routines. Many young parents read to their children before they are born. They develop regular reading routines. It is not necessary to read to young children more than a few minutes each day. As children grow older, they develop greater attention spans.
- Discuss stories you read with your child. Ask them to predict what will come next. Invite her to share what she would do when faced with a situation shared by a character in a book. When your child begins to read, ask him to read to you from books or magazines that he enjoys.
- Make reading materials available in your home. Find a place to store books and magazines. Reading materials needn’t be new or expensive. Good reading material is available at yard and library sales. Share books with family members.
- Give the gift of good books. Invite family and friends to consider giving your child books and magazine subscriptions as gifts for birthdays or other special occasions.
- Set aside time for family reading. Allow children to select reading material they enjoy for regularly scheduled family reading times. Some families like to read aloud to one another. Share what you’re reading with one another.
- Be a reading role model. Every time your child sees you reading letters and recipes, directions and instructions, newspapers, computer screens, and good books, he or she learns that you value reading. When your child sees that reading is important to you, she is likely to decide that it’s important to her, too.
- Take your child to the library and book stores. Many libraries host special reading programs for children that include plays, puppet shows, and opportunities to hear narrations of good books.
- Create a special reading space. The reading space in your home may include a comfy chair and lamp, a pop-up tent, or a corner filled with pillows. Find a place that makes reading inviting and comfortable.
Don’t feel discouraged if you lack reading skills. I struggled with reading when I was a child. I had a lazy eye; words of books often overlapped on the pages while I read. I tell struggling readers, “We are not bad readers. We read differently.” Contact your local library or literacy programs in your community. Many of these programs offer adult reading services free of charge.
Reading assistance is readily available if your child needs to develop strong reading skills. Ask your child’s teachers about special services such as in-school assistance, after-school tutoring, or summer reading programs. Local libraries and literacy volunteer groups often offer tutoring services in your community.
When you read aloud to your child, you give them opportunities to sharpen their listening and reasoning skills. Most importantly, you invite them into a love relationship with books.
Did someone tell you stories when you were a child? How can you continue their reading legacy?
Deepen your relationship with a special child in a conversation with these questions from A Survey for Adults and Children They Love.
Read powerful storytelling experiences from urban students in Voices in the City School.
Have you ever wondered What Color Is God? When children discuss spiritual questions, adults should listen to their responses.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” Remember How to Play and Have Fun with these suggestions.