Guest Blog Post from a Dad and a Bookstore Owner!
Begin Reading with Your Child Today
by Jake Ball
I have two great jobs. The first is the father of four children; the second is the owner of a store that focuses on children’s books. My two jobs make it such that friends, family and customers often approach me with this question: When is the best time to begin reading to my child?
I used to give this question a lot of thought. I read dozens of articles and studies on child psychology and development. I’d follow up with the questions about where the child is in development and try to come up with a thoughtful answer.
Things are different now. After all that study and work, the answer I give to all who asks this question is: The best time to begin reading to your child is today.
Below are a few things I have learned as a father and a bookseller as it relates to picture books and early reading.
It’s Never Too Early
Books for very young children can set the stage for a habit of reading. Children from 0-12 months can learn to recognize shapes, colors and basic concepts. There are many authors and publishers producing board books with vibrant colors, distinct shapes and simple stories. You’ll be surprised at how quickly a baby can engage with well-selected books.
Our eldest son was able to “read” many books by age three. He had read his favorites so many times that he had memorized the copy and could rehearse it upon seeing the accompanying illustration.
Words Not Required
An area of children’s literature that does not receive a lot of attention is wordless books. These are books where the pictures to tell the story—obviously without words. Over the past three years there has been a little resurgence in this genre resulting in some amazing wordless books.
A good wordless book sets the stage for the story but does not overdo details in illustration. The technique allows a reader to interpret the story through his or her own imagination and understanding. It is fun to have a wordless book and observe how children see different stories through the same book.
Although wordless books might not appear to teach literacy skills, they most certainly do. Children learn skills such as how to use and manipulate a book and follow a story. By entering the search term “wordless” at any online bookstore, you will see a wonderful array of wordless books that will be very rewarding reads with a young child.
It’s Never Too Late
It is generally agreed that the first three to five years of life are vital in determining future academic and professional success. If you haven’t been able to deliver a strong reading environment yet, start today.
Good reading habits can be established at any age. If your family does not have a good set of reading habits, take concrete steps to make them. I often suggest placing reading time on the calendar like any other appointment or commitment. Making a new reading habit as a family will not be easy, but, it will be well worth the effort.
There are many developmental reasons to read with your children. However, I don’t read with my kids so they’ll receive scholarships to Harvard University. I read with my kids because reading makes space to build a loving relationship with each child.
When I read books with my young children, they know that Dad cares about them and will take time to focus on him or her. I’m not a touchy-feely emotional father. But, I do want my kids to know that I love them and reading together provides one avenue for my kids to know Dad loves them.
Books are a part of our family fabric. They hold memories and represent bonding time we’ve shared. My second son was a spirited toddler to say the least. When he was two years-old, he chewed large chunks from a favorite board book entitled Things That Go. Our one year-old son likes to read that same injured book. It is a part of our family culture and we’ll probably keep it forever.
In our world of constant interruption and intrusive digital media, meaningful time with your children is absolutely priceless. Books help make the space families need to build lasting and loving relationships. Reading begins with picture books and ends with stronger families. That’s why I always say START TODAY!
About the Author:
Jake Ball started childrensbookstore.com in 2006 after realizing that there was no website that was a truly independent bookstore that is 100% dedicated to juvenile literature. He loves engaging with the authors, illustrators and publishers who work hard to produce high quality children’s literature.
Jake and his wife have 4 beautiful children. These poor children are often used as product testers and they have more books than might be considered healthy.
Childrensbookstore.com is based in Meridian, Idaho. Childrensbookstore.com works with local and national organizations to promote literacy and reading for children of all ages.