Posted by: Genny Colby | October 8, 2010

A Love of Affair…

I have had a life long love affair with books.  All kinds of books.  I blame my parents.  From as early as I can remember, we read books.  All kinds of books.  I find reading to be the greatest means of relaxation and escape.  Some of my favorite memories involve reading with my parents.

My mom read me The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien when I was about 5.  My dad had given her a beautiful collector’s edition of the book with rich, detailed, color illustrations.  I love the story, but each night she had to take the book out of the room because I was sure Smog the dragon would come out and get me!   But I remember the book and I remember the shared experience with my mom.

My dad read to us from the The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (we are from WI).  I have a very vivid memory of my dad, my sister and me all curled up on my parents bed, listening to dad read.  And eating an apple, since I had a loose tooth and swallowed it while eating the apple, as I was so involved in the story!

I think reading books aloud is a wonderful way to share books.  When I was 13 my mom read The Princess Bride to not only our family…but most of the neighborhood kids as well!  We would all settle in our screened in porch that summer and listen to her read.  My husband and I still read aloud with one another, a great way to spend an evening that does not involve TV, but allows us to do something together.  Currently we are reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling.

I was always the student in English class that go excited when we got a new book assigned.  I would rush home and settle in for a good read, though not all books assigned where very good or very interesting.  When I was 16, I dislocated my ankle on a trip to Germany (I have pictures no one else on our trip got).  I had a long couple of weeks where I could not drive, or really go anywhere.  Summer TV was pretty boring…so my mom started throwing books at me, “here, read this” or “try this one”.  That summer I read Sherlock Holmes and Bonfire of the Vanities to name a few.  I think she was mostly trying to get me to stop complaining about being cooped up inside, not able to drive my new car, or go do anything fun.  But it worked, I lost myself in book after book and in the end it is a summer of wonderful memories.  And one BAD movie…word of warning, do not ever rent the movie based on the book Bonfire of the Vanities.  The worst book to movie adaptation I have ever seen…not to mention one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

My daughter loves to read books.  She has her favorites that we read over and over and over.  And she likes to read to herself.  Which for my husband and I is great fun to watch.  She is starting to remember stories and we get a little glimpse into her story telling as she talks about the story or what she sees in the pictures (now mind you she is not quite 2 yrs old yet).  Between my collection of children’s books from my years as a preschool teacher, our weekly trips to the library, and my compulsion to buy books…she is never without a book to read.

There are so many things that children learn as they listen to stories and read books on their own.  Besides the obvious of learning her letters, that letters make words and that you use the words to read the story.  Language development is so crucial at young age and I know she is picking up words each time we read a book. She is learning that stories have sequences; what come first, second, third, last.  She is learning there is another way to communicate ideas other than just by talking.  She is learning to look at the pictures for clues to the story; what is happening in the story on this page.  She is using the pictures to think more about the story; what are the characters doing in the picture; where is the dog in the background going; what might that squirrel in the tree be doing; what do you think will happen next?

Reading is supposed to be fun, something you look forward to doing.  Yes, there are books that are not as much fun, that are required for school or for work that you just have to plug through, but if you have a love of reading to start with, then hopefully it will be less of a chore.

I was saddened by this article in the New York Times today about the current state of picture books.  What I think discourages me the most about this article is not that kids are reading at an earlier age and are ready for more advance books/chapter books earlier, but that parents are actually discouraging their children from finding pleasure in reading and in picture books.  A love of reading should be fostered by encouraging children to read what interests them and the expand on those interests.  I also worry that we are asking children to read books that they might not be able to full comprehend.  Should a 5 yr old be reading The Phantom Tollbooth on his own? Probably not.  But could mom/dad/grandma/grandpa/etc read the book with them to talk about the different situations, the words, the concepts introduced in this book?  Of course!  What a great learning and bonding experience for everyone.

If we want to encourage a life long love of books and of reading in general, then I think we need to encourage children to read books that interest them (regardless of the “level” of the book),introduce them to other books that will either further their interest or expose them to something new, and beyond anything else: read together.  Show your child the joys of getting lost in a good book, of sharing a story with someone else, of exploring new places through reading.  And don’t forget to let your child see you reading for pleasure, even if it is only the Sunday paper.

Now if you will excuse me, I hear a book calling my name.

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Responses

  1. As a fellow-lover of books (LOVE them! All of them!) that article makes me sad too. Picture books going away? 😦


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