When my older children were very little, I remember picking up a copy of a thin paperback book written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells. It was really a book for parents, reminding them to read to their children. The last line went something like, "Read to your bunny often, and your bunny will read to you!" That sweet line always rang in my head as those bunnies were read to so very often by parents, grandparents, friends and teachers. And now, of course, they do read to me, and also to the still little bunny in our house who doesn't read yet. But will. Someday, soon enough.
For the vast majority of children between the ages of 6 and 9, that's really all it takes– reading to those bunnies often, from the time they are very young. It also helps for them to see you reading texts of your own choosing, for your own purposes.
That is why Erin Baker began our recent literacy curriculum night by reading aloud to those who had come. She modeled an important way to engage children beyond simply listening to the words. Erin shared her own connections to the book being read, and invited the listeners to share theirs. She modeled not only the production of the words but also the otherwise invisible thinking that was going on in her head while she read. Good (proficient) readers are constantly engaged in a kind of internal conversation with the author. When we speak our side of this conversation as we read with children, we show them the most important habit of good reading — that reading is thinking.
Stopping once or twice while you are reading aloud with your child to say something like:
- Oh, that reminds me of….
- That makes me wonder….
- That makes me think about….
And inviting them to share their own connections, memories, questions and noticings is enough to deepen the enjoyment and the meaning in the experience of reading– and to uncover for children what reading is for!
For those of you who would like to know more specifically about appropriate ways to support your children who are beginning to try and read words themselves, I invite you to attend the upcoming volunteer trainings. Those trainings will include information about reading with children.
Now go curl up with those bunnies and read!