I’m so glad that Stella loves books. I mean, she LOVES books. Even if she’s surrounded by her train set, blocks, singing tea pot (yes…she has a singing tea pot) and puzzles, she will still reach for the stack on her bookshelf.
I don’t only contribute this to my academic and professional interest in children’s books, but more so to those around me that have fostered a book-friendly environment since before Stella was born.
One of my best friends threw me a book-themed baby shower a month before my Bucca was born. Each guest was tasked with bringing their favorite children’s book to build the baby’s library in lieu of a card. The guests also attached bookplates to their choices with a little message to the baby. I still love reading the bookplates as Stella chooses a book each day.
I know that book showers are no longer a new or original concept…just look at Pinterest. But I can’t overstate the significance that this shower had on Stella’s love of books. She was gifted books that I probably never would have exposed her to otherwise and some of those are her all-time favorites.
Stella has also been the recipient of some unique book-related gifts. For her first birthday, some great friends got my Bucca a subscription to Babybug Magazine for a year. These little magazines are more like board books. Each issue contains songs, stories, poems and colorful illustrations. Stella loves getting a new issue in the mail and goes back to previous issues again and again. This was certainly one of the most meaningful and lasting first birthday gifts she received. Click here for subscription information.
The Imagination Library program has also proven to be invaluable to Stella’s growing library. This program, initiated by Dolly Parton, provides children birth-age 5 with age-appropriate and free books each month in the mail. I’m thankful that my mom has connected Stella with these books, which she is always excited to receive. This program is not available in all areas, but those interested are able to replicate the program in their own community. Check out the website to see if your community has an Imagination Library program in place AND, if not, get information to start one.
All of these things have been used in Stella’s life to establish a strong foundation with books and have allowed us to focus on literature as a significant component of our daily and collective family life. I’m so thankful that those around me have contributed to building this structure. As Gladys Hunt states in Honey for a Child’s Heart, “Don’t let your children live in spiritual poverty when abundance is available! Fill your children up with words, with imaginative worlds, with adventures beyond your ken” (27).
Lindsay (and Bucca)
In Honey for a Child’s Heart, Hunt states, “The teachers I remember best are those who read to us each day from some wonderful book” (23). I think most of us can relate. Hearing a story read aloud can create powerful memories. But are there other, larger-scale benefits to reading aloud to a child or group of children?
This semester in my graduate school program I am exploring topics for my graduate thesis paper: a task that (only two weeks into class) is already making my head spin. This week we learned about various epistemological dimensions of learning, including the social dimension. Within this dimension, teachers are particularly concerned with a student’s self-awareness and how self-actualization can be utilized within a community context. As one article put it, it’s learning to think as “we” as well as “I” (Prakash & Waks, 88).
I know that reading aloud to children is a powerful experience. As Hunt states in HFACH, reading aloud within the presence of great writing creates a closeness: “…we felt bound together by the experience” (23). Is it the sense of embarking on an unknown adventure with others that creates this binding of individuals? In terms of the impacts of reading aloud, couldn’t one be that reading aloud has the power to create a sense of community among listeners?
But this also made me think about reading aloud in a broader community context. I see advertisements for special reading times at bookstores, libraries and even some churches. Could there be a correlation between children who are read to within a community setting and the children’s sense of belonging within that particular community? If so, that takes the powerful experience Hunt describes to a completely new level.
As I consider these questions, I’m not sure if I will take them on in my paper, but I am curious to get some opinions. How has reading aloud impacted you/your child(ren)/your student(s)? Have you felt connected to others through a group reading experience?
Perhaps reading aloud can not just bind together students in classrooms, but individuals in entire communities.
This is the second post covering the Tell Me Framework. Click here to be directed to the introductory post.
Have you ever noticed what usually happens when someone asks you about a book you’ve just read? I know that I usually answer by offering one of three responses:
1. “It’s about ______________( fill in the blank).
2. “It was really good.”
3. “It was really bad.”
Chances are, when someone asks you about a book, you think in terms of the overall story: you either liked it or you didn’t like it. If someone asks you for more detail, you give them an overview of the plot. Simple, right? Well, Aidan Chambers states that these blanket responses about literature actually drive children to give simple answers when discussing books. In Tell Me: Children, Reading and Talk, Chambers points out the notion that children generally hear adults talking about books in terms of the general story, not about the significance of the story. Instead of focusing on a reader’s enthusiasm brought about by a piece of literature, much book-talk is minimized to merely a discussion about the plot. But (as we know from high school literature classes), books offer so much more than that! But why don’t we talk about the other elements books have to offer us as unique human beings? Dare I say that perhaps this is why children don’t want to talk much about books either?
Luckily, the Tell Me framework is all about encouraging enriching and meaningful discussions about books for children and adults with methods that are quite simple, yet very revealing and effective. For example, Chambers points out two types of EXTREMELY HUMBLE enthusiasms that children can share when discussing books: likes and dislikes.
When an adult asks a child about his specific likes and dislikes concerning a book, it is not a request for a regurgitation of the plot. Instead, the adult is asking the child to engage in a discussion about their personal fervor for elements of the story that surprised, pleased or displeased them. While the request is simple, the internal engagement a child must undergo provokes complex and detailed responses about their individual reactions and how their enthusiasms apply to their own lives.
In Honey for a Child’s Heart, Gladys Hunt states the power books have in allowing families to communicate: “Knowing someone means sharing ideas, growing together. It means not being embarrassed about feelings or being yourself” (76). I think that Chambers’ framework for sparking conversations about books feeds into this notion of communication. When an adult asks a child to share his likes and dislikes about a particular book, additional conversation topics will come to the surface that won’t just reveal more about the book, but about the child himself. This is of great benefit to parents and teachers when trying to encourage thoughtful responses in class or around the dinner table.
I challenge you to ban the question, “Did you like it?” when asking a child about a book he’s just read. Instead, request that the child TELL YOU about what he liked. Then, about what he didn’t like. If more thoughtful engagement ensues (or even if it doesn’t) please comment below!
I accidentally did something interesting at my last trip to the library. While browsing the children’s books, I selected one book each from Eric Carle and Margaret Wise Brown. Honey for a Child’s Heart advocates books by both of these authors for children under the age of one, and I wanted to expand my Bucca’s (and my own) awareness of these authors. The books I chose were The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle and My World by Margaret Wise Brown. Without immediately realizing it, I chose companions to books that are already on our shelves: Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Brown’s Goodnight Moon are the partner books.
Stella and I read each author’s books back-to-back. She was especially interested in Carle’s books as we compared the blue horses in each story. She was also very intrigued by the large and colorful illustrations of the other animals in The Artist. This was actually the first book she pointed towards as it was sitting on our coffee table. Needless to say…this is quite a special book for us now!
What companion stories have you found in literature for young children? I’d love to hear your favorites and suggestions!
Lindsay (and Bucca)
Some dear friends gave my husband and I a copy of Honey for a Child’s Heart for our co-ed baby shower when we were expecting our Bucca. This book by Gladys Hunt offers helpful advice on how parents can encourage reading and, more importantly, cultivate rich experiences for children through books. As someone interested in experiential children’s literature, this book was a welcome addition to our library.
The title of the book implies the basics that parents offer to their children: milk represents a child’s physical needs and honey represents the richness of life. While many parents are primarily concerned with providing the milk, the honey is just as important. Hunt states:
To give honey, one must love honey and have it to give. Good books are rich in honey, and hence the title of this book. (25)
While the first part of the book is interested in providing guidance to parents on how to create growth through books, the second part contains reading lists based on a child’s age. While I’m not one to segment books to children based on only their age (I believe that books – and toys for that matter – should be chosen based on the uniqueness and individual nature of the child), I am thankful for Hunt’s suggestions. The first book list is for children ages 0-3, and I hope to expose Bucca to all of the books in her first three years through frequent visits to the library. I thought I had curated quite a beginning book collection for Stella, but to my surprise, we only have three books recommended on Hunt’s 0-3 list:
- Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
I’m excited to take Bucca through this list and record her reactions and responses to the books recommended in Honey for a Child’s Heart. Hey…I’ll take any opportunity to read more books to her! More to come!
Lindsay (and Bucca)