“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.” | Dr. Seuss
Yesterday was March 2nd and on this day back in 1904, Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was born! At this time each year we celebrate the National Education Association’s Read Across America, where we pledge to help create a nation of diverse readers and remember the importance of early literacy. March is also National Reading Month. So, whether your child is growing in the womb, happily “eating” their board books, asking for 13 bed-time stories, or reading independently, it’s a great time to have some fun with your child(ren) and celebrate our love for stories.
At tlb, we especially love the timelessness of Dr. Seuss. His wisdom is eternal. While many of us remember reading his books as children, the lessons he shares are relevant at any age, young or old. His stories such as Oh, the Thinks You Can Think, The Lorax, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go, inspire young children to dream beyond their own expectations, to find their way based on their individual strengths, to care for others and the environment, to persevere through tough times and to never give up! Classics such as The Cat and the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, and Hop on Pop introduce children to rhyming words, teach reading fluency and were some of the first books written to help school age children (6 and 7 years) learn to read on their very own.
Jenn reflects, “Circle time in class is my favorite time. I love to prepare lessons with a book and corresponding craft or activity. It’s so cool to see the look of wonder in the children’s eyes while we read and then to see them make connections when we do our activity afterwards. It’s amazing! The power of a story is unlimited.” So, here are some tips on how to instill and strengthen your child’s early literacy skills and inspire in them a love for reading and writing!..
Talk to your children often. Starting from birth, converse with your child about anything and everything. Babies and toddlers need to build a good base for reading comprehension through natural interactions with parents and caregivers and real experiences in the world. They need to internalize words with all their senses, like when you tell your child about the warm water and yellow washcloth you bathe her with, or acknowledge the birds, big trucks, or loud helicopters he hears outside. Use a lot of adjectives! Point out print in your home and neighborhood including signs, store names and symbols. These language “lessons” are in context and have relevance to your child’s life. As they get older, engage your child in conversations about their day, ask them questions, tell jokes and make up stories together. The opportunities are endless!
Play rhyming games. Walks around the neighborhood and car rides are great opportunities to help your child develop their auditory system. Take turns saying a word like “cat” and come up with as many words as you both can that rhyme with it. It’s also super fun to come up with nonsense words too (i.e. “yat”, “zat” or “dat”).
Set up an art and writing center in your home. Create it and they will come… It’s almost like magic! If you would like to see your children writing for pleasure in their free time, then create an inviting space with engaging materials. Here are our tried and true favorites for creating a captivating writing center. What we love about these items is that they become household staples. Include a variety of open-ended materials like a variety of paper or blank notebooks, pencils, crayons, oil pastels, colored pencils, watercolors, highlighters, alphabet stickers, stamps, envelopes, etc. Encourage children to use their emergent writing skills (drawing, scribbling, invented spelling) to create letters, lists, stories, pictures, postcards and more! Playful Learning is a great resource for inspiring the writing center in your home. Check it out!
Move, move move! Both gross- and fine-motor development aid children in becoming effective writers, thus readers. Encourage children to be active outdoors by climbing, running and skipping to build gross-motor strength and provide lacing, beading, modeling clay and dressing activities when indoors to build fine-motor skills that will later help with their tripod grip to hold a pencil. Writing and story telling generally come first in literacy development and leads to reading!
Make reading together a daily routine. We love this quote by Neil Gaiman:
“We have an obligation to read aloud to our children. To read them things they enjoy. To read to them stories we are already tired of. To do the voices, to make it interesting and not stop reading to them just because they learn to read to themselves. Use reading-aloud time as bonding time, as time when no phones are being checked, when the distractions of the world are put aside.”
Reading a book together and out loud has so many benefits. It helps with language development, listening skills, fluency and it models vocabulary for children. It also helps instill a love of reading. Studies show that even older children whose parents still read to them are more likely to see reading as a pleasurable activity. Jenn says, “I cherish reading with my daughters, even my 10 year old. It’s our time to disconnect from everything around us and connect to each other and to the world of whatever story we read. We read every night before bed and my youngest whispers, “This is my favorite time of day.” Reading also helps when things get crazy at home. I just grab a book, grab the kids and the mood shifts away from crazy to calm.” So, make time for it, but be patient with your kids, especially if you’re just starting out. Ask children questions about the book as you read, point out familiar letters that match their names and fill your home library with a variety of fiction and nonfiction books. The benefit of reading with your child begins before your child can verbalize words or phrases, so start early to help benefit your child’s long-term language development.
Follow your child’s lead. Learning should come from a place of joy, curiosity and intrinsic motivation. If your child doesn’t show interest in letter games or rhyming words at two or three years old, that’s ok! Research shows that children’s brains aren’t developmentally ready to read until age seven or eight. Following your child’s lead and exploring a slower, more Waldorf-ian reading pace is a wonderful approach for some children. Use games and fun activities to teach phonics and sight words such as Bingo, Memory or Go Fish! The more “unconscious” a child can be about learning to read, in the same way that a young child absorbs his mother tongue without effort, the less frustration they’ll have down the road.
In case you’re wondering what to read, check out these lists:
If your looking for local children’s story times and book related events, check out the West Bergen Branch of the Jersey City Public Library (476 West Side Avenue), Word Bookstore (123 Newark Avenue), and Hazel Baby‘s Charles & Co location (199 Montgomery Street).