The Power of Books!
It all starts as a story to soothe the little one before bed or a way to encourage vocabulary as chubby fingers scan through a board book. “Time to sleep little mouse, little mouse, darkness is falling all over the house” (Mem Fox). Many times I have quoted that, while drowsy myself, as I put the youngest of four to sleep. Maybe we recite “Left foot, left foot, right foot, right. Feet in the morning and feet at night.” The cadence of the Dr. Seuss books entices children to play with words and sounds. In small children, this is the beginning of phonological awareness, a skill that is foundational for learning to read and a strong predictor of children who experience early reading success. It includes being able to hear, identify, and manipulate onset and rime. Onset refers to the beginning sounds while rime refers to what comes next, often known as “hunks and chunks” or word families. Phonemic awareness is an auditory skill and does not involve words in print. However, children eventually begin to see the words on the page take shape in their own minds.
Goodnight Moon soon advances to a chapter book read aloud to the children as they beg for just one more chapter before the lights are out. When children are old enough to read on their own, there is an evolution from stumbling through the words to devouring chapters and winding seamlessly into novels. A whole new world has opened up for them. Research books facilitate fact-finding about their favorite snake or a country to which they’d like to travel. Science fiction novels take them to planets and places not yet explored. Dystopian novels or historical fiction introduce character traits such as bravery, strength, persistence, and courage. They can relate to humorous stories of characters, boys and girls who experience the same struggles with friends, siblings, and parents. History books transport them to the past to allow them to shape the future. Children’s passions are often fueled at this time by the findings on the pages.
Books can be powerful in helping children to see within as well. Sometimes it’s the character on the page who helps them to put a finger on their emotions. Friendship struggles, jealousy, anger, worry, fitting in, and special needs are just a few topics that can be found in children’s books. I could almost see the lightbulb go off in my child’s head as I read Kevin Henkes book Julius, the Baby of the World when her brother was born. Koala Lou by Mem Fox reassured each of my four at one time or another as they felt failure. Stories can also be a bridge to topics that are initially too painful to address with children. Books about children experiencing divorce, the loss of loved ones /pets, and family illness might allow them to feel less alone.
Although my children are 19, 16, 14, and 12, my nights of snuggling and reading to my children are far from over. Just last night, in the comfort of my teen’s bed, I read aloud from The Book Thief. And every now and then as I do so, my two oldest can be found milling around within earshot! So while research tells us all of the benefits of reading and being read to, the power is often in that intangible, warm feeling one gets when in the company of a good book. Happy reading!
Lower Elementary Teacher
West Side Montessori is an independent, accredited Montessori school educating children 13 months through 8th grade (preschool, kindergarten, elementary and middle school) with locations at 13587 Roachton Rd in Perrysburg, Ohio, and 7115 W. Bancroft Street in Toledo, Ohio.