Stella-Bucca is now 18 months old and has developed some definite favorites in terms of books, even desiring to “read” some to me as she flips through the pages and recites the lines she remembers from our reading experiences. Here’s a quick rundown of some of Bucca’s recent favorites. I’ve found that all of these have really captured her attention and delighted her to the point of desired multiple readings in one sitting. All except Carle’s book feature a set rhythm that provides a sense of order in the text, which may be a contributing factor in my Bucca’s interest…she LOVES music and dancing, and many of these books can be sung as they’re read.
Our list includes:
Be sure to check them out!
Lindsay (and Bucca)
I haven’t posted in quite some time because I’ve been focusing on completing my M.Ed. and its major component: the master’s paper. Play through Literary Transcendence (my title, which basically means, how children play with books) looks at three unconventional titles for young children to discern how these books invite playful opportunities through the reading experience. I will speak more on my research in a future post, but something really cool happened at home that directly correlated with my non-stop train of thought on this topic.
One of the books I explore in my paper is Eric Carle’s famous The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In my paper, I assert that the cut-outs in the book not only facilitate engagement with the story of the caterpillar’s journey, but also contribute to opportunities for play for the young reader.
My Bucca has been thumbing through this book lately, and her 18-month-old brain has been soaking in the concept of caterpillar-into-butterfly. While she was looking through the book, without my direct oversight, I noticed her carefully touching each cut-out hole on the famous spread of the caterpillar eating through an entire picnic spread. As I saw her point to each hole, I started counting each time she moved her finger: 1…2…3…4…
As I counted and she touched, we created a new game within the book (making her repeat “AGAIN!” after she reached the end of the spread). She was able to touch and count and play for several minutes before she brought me the book to re-read to her. But her play really helped to solidify the ideas that I have been researching for months. There are so many ways to play with books!
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)
My lovely friend, Teresa, recently shared with me her personal experiences with growing up as a reluctant reader, but desiring for her sons to have rich and meaningful experiences with books. Here, she discusses how she overcame her own resistance to books and developed daily practices with her family to promote sign language, literacy and a love of learning through books!
When I think back to reading while growing up, I am plagued by the agonizing memory of headaches–I hated it. I always said that I hate reading, that I’m not a reader. Through high school I never read the textbooks and it showed on my report card. Even in college, I never read my Occupational Therapy books–how I got straight A’s in the program was only my validation that I was on the right career path because it came so naturally. I later learned that I am a kinesthetic learner: because of the way I took notes in college, when it came to test day I could “see” right where I had written the answer in my notebook.
When my husband and I were expecting our first child, Eli, I consistently read the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book, the holy grail of pregnancy! Soon after having him, I knew I needed to read more books to figure this parenting thing out. I found myself reading everything that came my way about breastfeeding, sign language, child development, raising a child by God’s grace…the list goes on and on! But within that process, something clicked. I realized I do love to read!
When I thought back to my childhood, and even talked to my mom, we never had shelves of books in our house. I never remember sitting around reading a book, or seeing her read. I knew at that time that I wanted my boy to enjoy reading and do well in school and THIS was the key component I had missed when growing up.
At 3 months of age, I started taking Eli to a reading program at our then local library in Colorado Springs. It was a 30 minute class with other new moms. It started with a little song/finger play, then they’d read a book and had the same one to pass out to each child for them to explore. We would learn a “sign” that related to the story like “more”, “milk” ,”bear” and so forth. At the end, the babies would get to play with some toys, we’d sing one last song at that was it. We did this program for about 9 months and by this time I was pregnant with #2 and was just too tired, so we took a few months off! On top of the reading program, I would check out a few books and read them with him each day and did quite a bit of sign language using the book, “Baby Signing 1 2 3: The Easy-to-Use Illustrated Guide for Every Stage and Every Age” by Nancy Cadjan. I made flash cards of all the signs, laminated them and put them on key chains in various places around the house so we could keep introducing new signs to him.
Around 12 months we started spelling out his name with foam letters in the bathtub. Somewhere around 18 months we realized he was saying the letters E and H…he would laugh hysterically when we say them, and we realized that he really “knew” them consistently. So, I started really working on all the letters with him. By 2 years he knew all of his letters and their letter sound. By 3 he knew simple site words and now at around 3.5 he can read simple books. As far as Ian goes, our second son, he’s a sharp little guy too! He is 2.5 and also knows all his letters and about 20 letter sounds, can spell his name, can count to 14, knows about 8 shapes and 8 of the basic colors. We also read a book to them every night and go to the library about every week. Our community has an awesome library…the boys start by going in and coloring, then they sing songs, read a book, learn a new “sign” and finish up with 3-4 stations of sensory play/fine motor activities.
I feel like all of these literacy experiences (signing, letter recognition, family reading and library time) has made reading more enjoyable for the boys. Daily, Ian can be found laying on the floor surrounded by books or curled up on the couch with one. And during “nap” time in the afternoon, Eli has books sprawled across his bedroom floor and I can hear him reading them aloud. He often acts out the stories he’s read with toys around the house…it’s really neat to see! I’m glad they get so much enjoyment out of reading (especially since I didn’t while growing up) and I do believe it will help them to be a lifelong learners!
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!
Teachers and parents strive everyday to prompt conversations among children about books. Sometimes starting these conversations can be like pulling teeth. Aidan Chambers realized this and sought to create a framework for adults to engage children in reading thoughtfully and responding articulately to the books they’ve read. In his book, Tell Me: Children, Reading, and Talk, Chambers outlines steps for adults to take in sparking conversations that make children excited, not just about reading, but about talking about reading.
Chambers places equal value on reading books and talking about books. He states:
“Talking well about books is a high-value activity in itself. But talking well about books is also the best rehearsal there is for talking well about other things. So in helping children to talk about their reading, we help them to be articulate about the rest of their lives” (2).
I love that Chambers sees the act of reading in this constructive manner. Reading not only has intrinsic value in itself, but the activity can be used as a tool to enhance individualism and overall personal development. But, in order for books to have this transformative impact, the adults in a child’s life must place value on reading and engaging children in a dialogue about literature. Chambers is clear that children cannot become avid readers if they are not within an environment that supports and encourages this activity. Adults need to be available to help a child make sense of the marks on each page of a chosen book. There is a direct correlation between the richness of a child’s reading environment and the richness of the talk surrounding the books they have read.
But how do adults create such a positive environment? It starts with two words: TELL ME. Adults can prompt meaningful conversations simply by uttering these unassuming words. Chambers advocates that adults ask children to tell them about the following aspects of a book:
- Tell me what you liked
- Tell me what you didn’t like
- Tell me what puzzled you
- Tell me about patterns you noticed
These simple requests will do so much more than asking a child the most common question: Why? The Why? question can often be too big for a child to process. Chambers states that Why? can overwhelm a child because he assumes that the adult already knows the answer and is expecting something specific. Contrastingly, Tell me… frees a child from assumed expectations and allows him to generously articulate true responses.
Try using this approach while reading to your children, and see if more thoughtful and excited responses emerge in your book-talk. More posts on the specifics of the “Tell Me” approach will be coming soon!