The JOY of reading with children
by Peggy Edwards and Mary Jane Sterne

When you snuggle and read aloud, you are helping your child become a reader. You are creating a bond and memories that will last a lifetime. That child will be hooked on books before they are out of diapers!

Eighteen years ago when my eldest grandchild began to talk, his mother called to ask if I had been reading nursery rhymes to him when he
was an infant. I told her “yes,” feeling a little embarrassed about it. “Well, Ben just said his first words,” his mom explained. “And he said, ‘Rock-a-bye baby.’”
Today we know that reading to babies is not silly. Children start learning long before they start school and even before they can talk. Babies love the sound of your voice. They learn language skills from songs and stories. When you snuggle and read aloud, you are helping your child become a reader. You are creating a bond and memories that will last a lifetime. That child will be hooked on books before they are out of diapers!
Reading with a child is easy and enjoyable. There are some tips for making the most of this special time. Make it lively and fun Read the child’s book ahead of time so you can give it a lively reading. Use sound effects (for example, a knock on the door) and different voices for different characters. Explore the beautiful drawings and point to the pictures as you say the words.
Involve the child Let the child choose the books you will read together at a particular time. Be prepared to adapt and be interrupted, especially when reading to younger children. Stop reading from time to time and discuss the story or the pictures. Ask questions. Talk and laugh about what is happening. If a child gets bored or tired, summarize and move on to the end.

Be prepared to repeat
Children love to have the same story read over and over again, and they hear or see new things each time. Once a child knows a story, don’t ever try to skip a page. They will catch you. When the book is a very familiar one, try stopping before the last few words in a  sentence and let them fill in the words. You may be amazed to discover that they know the book by heart.

Enjoy audio books
If you are a long-distance grandparent, you can record yourself reading and mail it along with the book to your child. Audio books are great for long drives or for listening to together at home. Children love it when the sound tells them to turn the page.

Give books and magazines as gifts
Classic, memorable, creative, clever books, and children’s magazines such as Owl and Chickadee, make wonderful gifts that can be read again and again. But how do you choose what to buy? Be sensitive to your child’s age and stage of development. Librarians, teachers and bookstore associates can help: some publish lists of top books and magazines for different age groups. Bring back the books that you once loved as a child.

Talk to your children about what they like to read and what they are interested in.
Think about the central message of the book and the feelings it brings on. Consider giving teenagers book gift certificates or take pre-teens to the store to pick out a gift book for themselves.
Have fun at the library To save money and expose your child to the world of books, go to the library together and borrow books. (Children love to have their own library card.) Drop in for some of the special story times, book clubs and activities at your local library. Show older children how to find a book through the computer catalogue.

Make reading an everyday delight
Reading is not just about books. Read the cereal box together, the signs on the road and DVD labels. Have newspapers, magazines and comics around. Read snippets together and talk about articles that are of interest.There are so many reasons to read with our children. It help them cultivate their imagination, attention span, and a love for words and art. It encourages them to become readers. Most of all, it is a way to show your love. Reading with your children gives them your immediate attention and a long-term gift — the gift of literacy.

Mary Jane Sterne and Peggy Edwards are the authors of Intentional Grandparenting: A Boomer’s Guide, (McClelland and Stewart, 2005), which is available from your favourite bookstore. The authors live in Ottawa and have 19 children between them.
Literacy-rich Play
In addition to reading together, you can help your children cultivate a love of the printed word through a variety of play activities.

Post Office (not the kissing kind) is a favourite game. Provide envelopes, flyers, paper, rubber stamps and boxes so your child can create, stamp, sort and deliver mail. Use old magazines and construction paper to make simple cards together and mail them to relatives and friends. And don’t forget the annual letter to Santa. One grandmother we interviewed talked about how she taught her grandkids to write thank you notes — a lost art that becomes a much-appreciated habit if learned young in a fun way.

Library is a great activity for slightly older children. Help your children design their own library cards and bookmarks. Provide a desk and an old keyboard for “checking out” books. Help them sort books and make lists of favourite stories to pass on to friends. Encourage your children to read aloud to stuffed animal “children” in the library. Help your child make his own book and place it in the library.

Museum draws on children’s interest in nature, history and art, as well as words. Children can make pictures for an art museum, gather
stones, acorns and animal figures for a natural history museum, or gather interesting objects from the garage to exhibit. Make signs
about the collection or the artist and announce museum hours and entrance fees.

Restaurant turns baking and eating into a literacy-rich learning activity. Make grocery lists and menus. Have your child “take orders” on a pad and call them out in the kitchen. Make placeholders and signs for the restaurant. Read recipes together and show your child how to measure ingredients and turn on the oven and the timer.

Doctor’s Office lets children write prescriptions, make appointments (with a telephone, calendar and appointment book) and design x-rays of their patients. Provide a clipboard for the doctor to take notes, file folders for patient records and some simple doctor tools for the examination. The patient can be a doll, stuffed animal or you!

10 Tips for Family Literacy
Forget the iPods and Xbox. Pull out a few good books and spend some time reading with your kids.
1. Begin reading now. It’s never too late or early to read with children.
2. Lost of movies are based on books. Share the book and then enjoy the movie together.
3. “Read” while you’re in the car by experiencing great books on CD, DVD or tape.
4. Make waiting time disappear. Share a book in the doctor’s office waiting room or while you ride the bus.
5. Make this year the Year of the Magazine.Subscribe to a magazine for all the members of the family.
6. Play with words. Put magnetic letters or poetry sets on the refrigerator.
7. Make your next birthday party a book affair. Choose a theme based on a favourite book, put books in the grab bags and create personal books as a craft.
8. Use the library. It opens the whole world to your family.
9. Build your family library. Find treasures at yard sales, rummage sales and library bookstores.
10. Let your children see you reading. They will begin to copy you.

Source: Ottawa Public Library

What Books Can Become
Three one-act plays intended for four to 10 years old One of our regular contributors, Iris Winston, knows exactly how important books are for kids. She is a journalist and also an award-winning essayist and short-story writer. Three of her plays were recently published as a collection:

Let’s Be Friends shows how a lonely young skunk uses his special skill to help squirrels lost in the forest find their way home and, in so doing, makes new friends; The Other Side is a drama that gives Ruth a new view on an old problem and a chance to visit two important people from her past; and Eraser Girl demonstrates how Shannon, with the help of an unusual stuffed toy, comes to terms with her parents’ decision to separate.
All three plays won the Sybil Cooke Award (2006 and 2007), the section of the Ottawa Little Theatre National Playwriting Competition devoted to plays for young audiences.
Let’s Be Friends is the dramatization of her book Sammy Skunk Finds a Friend. Another of her children’s books, A Visit from the Tooth Fairy, was featured on CBC Radio and her two social studies textbooks were designated texts for division two students in Alberta.
Iris’ books are available at Baico Books, Books on Beechwood, Chapters (Kanata), Kaleidoscope Kids’ Books, Read’s Books (Carleton Place) and The Miller’s Tale (Almonte).

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