Wednesday, February 12, 2014

“My Best Friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.” Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln knew how to choose best friends! I also am delighted to learn that he loved to eat. I just found out that Lincoln carried gingerbread cookies in his pants pockets, which he shared with friends. A person who loves books and cookies is my idea of an ideal friend.  If you are interested to find out more about Lincoln’s eating habits, check out the recent book, Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln’s Life and Times.

Friday, February 7, 2014

What motivates parents to read to their children?

Reading brings so many pleasures and benefits but I believe the overriding reason why parents read to their children is that it simply makes them feel good.  The intimacy of these shared moments are part of what makes parenting so meaningful and satisfying.

Lucky are the adults who can tap into the memory of being read to as a child.  They are tapping into a felt memory of the love, tenderness and affection they received during the reading experience.  These emotions are at the heart of what children need to thrive and they are the currency of the reading relationship. 

The pleasure and rewards of reading is an experience we recognize even though it might be difficult to anatomize.  Social science is especially inadequate to describe the nature of the joy and benefits parents receive when they read with children. On the most practical level, parents read to children because they know it is good for them. Reading and talking with children about the books they read builds strong literacy skills. Learning to read is critical to a child’s success both in and out of school and literacy is one of the best predictors of a child’s future success.

However there are other long lasting benefits when parents read to their children.  Inside every reading experience is the opportunity for parents and children to be part of a Reading Relationship. A Reading Relationship happens when parents talk with their child to help them better understand what they read, allowing them to get more enjoyment from the reading experience. A reading relationship shows children they are loved and the desire to understand one another is at the heart of what children need to become a person in their own right.  The conversations that happen inside a Reading Relationship build a close bond between parents and children

In addition, reading fiction is one of the best ways children grow their capacity to feel empathy, one of the most important qualities needed to have a high emotional intelligence. A good story invites children to step inside the shoes of a character, to find out what happened and to try and understand why a character acted in the way they did. Part of understanding the actions and motivations of another helps us better know ourselves and this is one of the gifts of fiction.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Peyton Manning, a very good story

A recent article in SF Gate, highlighted the importance of parents talking to their children so when they enter school they are ready to be successful learners. Talking develops a child’s use and understanding of language, which is the basis of reading. What makes vocabulary valuable and important is not the words themselves so much as the understandings they afford.

Infants learn language with remarkable speed. Young children learn their mother tongue rapidly and effortlessly, from babbling at 6 months of age to full sentences by the age of 3 years when engaged in social exchange, regardless of culture. The way parents engage with their child will determine the path that language development takes in the vital first five years. Conversations before the age of 3 are directly linked to IQ development.   Whether they speak early or late, or learning one or more languages, language acquisition for all children occurs gradually through interaction with people and the environment.

Talking with young children and school age children gives them the vocabulary they need to be successful learners. Choose a subject that interests your child. Payton Manning is a good choice, whether or not you are a football fan. His personal story, what makes him extraordinary, the way he has flourished, and how he has dealt with his disadvantages and set backs is just the tip of the iceberg. I can’t imagine a person who would not admire and aspire to his brand of extraordinary.

When we think of talking about what happened and why, which is the basis of story, talking with children becomes interesting and creates a close bond between parent and child. Talking about a story frees a parent from feeling frustrated that too many of their conversations with their children amounts to giving them directions and asking them” How was your day?”, which often yields a most unsatisfactory, “nothing.”  Find out a little more about Peyton Manning and begin a conversation which is sure to feel rewarding

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Children begin to dream their dreams and grow their hopes and aspirations inside the books they read.

The books children read have a lasting influence and help shape and change them to become the person they are capable of becoming. A story shows a child who they are at a moment in time and who they might become.  Reading is how children better know themselves. “There is no intellectual equivalent to allowing oneself the time and space to get lost in another person’s mind,” because reading introduces us to the one character we might recognize but are not always eager to know better— ourselves.

Reading Books Is Fundamental tells the personal story of how books saved the writer from a life of poverty, stress, depression and isolation. Reading fiction is transformative by the very nature of its fundamental ability to connect us to others— to understand and share the feelings of another, what we call empathy.  As James Baldwin said:  “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

Lets not waste precious time trying to convince children of the importance of reading. Just read great stories and they will feel the rewards and pleasures of stepping into the life of someone else.   If you like to eavesdrop on the lives of others and you like to travel to new places and meet new people, you are on the road to becoming a Lifelong Reader.