Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Creating A Library for your Little One

I find that there is just NO WAY to under-emphasize the importance of reading.

In order to be a successful in school as well as in any future vocation, it is imperative to posses strong literary skills. For this we need to be exposed to the proper materials from the beginning. Not every child has an easy journey on the road to literacy. And some children never fully learn to read properly. Others may acquire the skills involved eventually, but retain the idea of reading as a dreaded chore rather than a cherished activity.

Its all relative to how they are exposed to reading. Are they shown how fun reading can be? Do they see you reading? Or, are they being forced to sit down and "learn to read"? If the whole reading experience is one where the child is brought to tears over not meeting up to the expectation of him performing to a particular level, not only is the parent frustrated, but the child is feeling "failure". To push them to meet up to the expectations of their parents and teachers, or they may also feel the negative peer pressure. When a child is pushed too fast, too soon, the end result is the child looses all interest in wanting to read and they will likely avoid any opportunity to read.

So how do we as parents guarantee that our little one will acquire the necessary abilities to read with ease? The short answer is "start early". Regardless of when you start, how do we ensure they will view a book as their "buddy" rather than their "burden"? We must have a solid understanding of early development and offer some suggestions on what types of books will work for each age.

Babies... Will enjoy being read to from birth. The content of the book makes no difference at this stage, our purpose here is to develop a bond with those who love and read to him. Simply hearing the gentle rhythm of a voice associated with books will set a firm foundation for a lifelong love affair with the written word. While any book is appropriate for this activity because what a parent is building is emotional messages of love, comfort, security. Doing it before naps and bedtime helps the baby settle down and sets the patterns they know that its time to unwind, relax and enjoy this special time!

6-12 months... Infants begin to want to "get in on the action". They will want to grab the books and explore them with their eyes as well as their mouths. Given their excitement and lack of experience, it is unrealistic to expect them to be gentle as they do so. If we approach this in a critical way they may get the sense that books are "don't touch" items and that they are not for them. Therefore, getting durable board books which are en curiosity curiosity of the busy body baby works like magic to capture their focus such as "touchy feely" types where they can touch and explore the textures. Talking about how we hold a book will introduce your child to important concepts and develop good habits for later years. Continue the routine of reading before nap and bedtimes, these are treasured moments that won't last forever.

Many parents often object to spending any "book" time with the young toddler. Typical objections are: won't sit still, reaches at pages, tears pages etc. This is why board books at this age with mostly pictures, vivid color, and basic themes work well. Again, talking about the images, using descriptive language is more important than reading written word. This age is critical for building the familiar vocabulary of "reading" with spoken language. Children thrive later if the vocabulary is heard long before the written words of reading are taught.

12-24 months... As our children grow, so does their fascination with books! This is largely based on their intense fondness for simple mechanisms. The binding on a book makes a nice hinge, and infants will be enamored by their ability to simply turn the pages back and forth. Again, content isn't as important as the "construction" at this point. Books that have a peek-a-books, rattle, squeak and have interactives are fun. Board books continue to be used at this age, as most children's fine motor skills are still developing and few might be ready for real book pages. Chunky style board books are favorites for this age.

Continue the rich vocabulary. Speaking regular words are important. Don't use baby talk as this will be confusing when the child is learning the mechanics of sounding out and reading words later. So talk it up! Directional words, adjectives, adverbs are important building blocks that the brain will be familiar with when the more in depth reading development occurs later. Have fun! Do silly things. Books with familiar songs, ones with rhyme and rhythm are additional building blocks they will use later as they build phonemic awareness and help the brain learn new pathways for language.

Toddler years... During these years our vocabulary expands enormously and children start to make a connection between the spoken word and the object or picture it represents. Here is where picture books become so important...Which ones are Best? Well, the best way to teach a child is to find what they are interested in. And dive in!

Preschoolers... As children move through these years they begin to master the various elements involved in actual reading. The greatest challenge at this point is not to force reading upon them. In the schools there is often the debate of which method is best "Phonics" or "Whole Language". Some children learn better with one style , while others will learn faster with the other. Most however, will learn through both, so with that in mind, parents should keep a verity of materials on hand for their children to view.

School age... As children finally become involved in independent reading it is essential to reinforce the notion that this is an extraordinarily useful and enjoyable activity. Find books with puzzles, riddles, mysteries. There are many books which are of topical interest particularly in non-fiction. At this age they're really wanting to know how things work! Where do things come from and learning about history with biographies told as a story are fun and engaging.

By building your own family library, your children will be well on their way to a healthy and enjoyable lifelong love affair with reading! At this point, if you have built your library around the indications of her unique rate of learning and pattern of development, you will get to reap the rewards of cuddling up with your child and experiencing the pleasure of hearing her read to you!
How to build your own family library
You can always "test drive" many different types of books through your local library. It keeps the reading habit affordable. Be aware that studies have shown a direct correlation to literacy with the number of reading materials found in the home. Usborne Books at Home helps parents build their own library when a family hosts a book demonstration, based upon the purchases of their guests. The cost to the family is basically two hours of time for the evening and a small handling fee and shipping, typically earning $100 or more in FREE books!
Usborne has plenty of books and subjects for every age in the family. Activity books that encourage basic understanding of math, writing, and reading. First Experiences series helps children discover how to deal with new situations. Their wide variety of storybooks incorporate whole language learning while providing fun and exciting stories in most of the early childhood categories. Usborne is the king of non-fiction for youngsters. They have topical encyclopedias, reference books, and themed activity books, etc. They also have plenty of pre-reading books to engage even the youngest of children.

Click here for information on how you can build your family library for pennies on the dollar with an Usborne home demonstration.

You can also trove used book stores, Goodwill, Salvation Army and Deseret Industries stores. People are always giving away books and second hand is also great!

Have you've ever heard of Freecycle? This is another treasure trove to get the things you need from someone who doesn't need them any more. Many on the list are moving on, either literally moving and they can't take it with them, or their children are growing and they'd rather give it to someone who would enjoy and use it rather than throw it into the landfills. (BTW, its a great source for more than just books!)

Hopefully this has given you some background to get you started in building your own family library!