Tag Archives: books

Foster an Appreciation for Books


It has been proven that exposing children to books and reading to them at an early age can promote children’s language and literacy development. Love for books isn’t just about the words on the page—it’s about the physical objects too! Luckily, the love for books can be easy to foster from the time children are born solely by exposing them to books early on and on a continual basis. I often hear from educators that they are concerned that young children are rough on books. I see books kept out of reach of the children. An early childhood program is the perfect place to help children learn how to use and care for books. Yes, it is possible to teach the youngest of children to respect books. That isn’t to say that books won’t get ripped, chewed on and mishandled. In fact, this is a positive thing. These occurrences are teachable moments. The following are occurrences that can be turned into teachable moments and will support children in learning how to care for books.

Read, read, read!
Reading books should occur more often than just at group time. When children have access to books, they will bring books to teachers to be read. This can begin in an infant room by finding time to read with infants one on one. I have seen teachers read books while holding an infant who is taking a bottle or inviting children to sit in their lap to introduce a new book or an old favorite. As a toddler teacher, all I had to do was sit on the floor and children would bring books to me. I didn’t have to have a formal story time because we were reading throughout the whole day, including getting ready for nap time.

Reading to children often opens the door for modeling how to take care of books. Gentle reminders on putting books back on the shelf when finished reading may be necessary. Sometimes when books are left on the floor, children will stand on them. It can be appropriate to say, “I see you standing on a book. I am worried that will tear up the book. You can read the book or put it back on the shelf.”

Allowing infants and young toddlers to mouth objects is okay. Mouthing is important to their development. The mouth is the drive for life. When we are born our drive for survival is undeniable. Infants cry and search (known as rooting) for sustenance which satisfies their needs. This drive is so deep that it takes most children a long time to move past it. I would challenge that this need never goes away. Think about the joy of tasting your favorite flavors, chewing a cup of ice, or enjoying your favorite gum or candy. Do you prefer certain textures of foods over others such as crunchy vs. creamy?

One solution is to provide cloth and vinyl books. They can be mouthed with no damage and are easily washable. Board books are also sturdy and wipeable. Mouthing them will deteriorate them over time therefore it is okay to say, “I see you are putting the book in your mouth. You can put this toy in your mouth. (Offer an appropriate toy) or we can read the book.” Offer the child to sit in your lap and enjoy the book together.

Ripping pages/Misusing books
Children are natural explorers which explains why they are curious about their surroundings. They also do not know their own strength nor have any clue about what is “socially acceptable.” Adults can take note of this fact and decide how they react to children who are simply doing what comes natural to them. The act of exploring needs to be guided not dictated. In order to know how to respond to children’s curiosity, it is important to remember to think in terms of what the child is trying to accomplish. In my experience in providing the opportunity to explore books, I noticed that when books have the slightest tears they do not go unnoticed to children. Their initial instinct seems to be to peel back on the layers that are unraveling on the board book or bend the spine of the book back until it cracks. The first few times this happens they do not know what the consequence of peeling or bending will be, therefore they will test it out a few times to see if they get the same result.

Our response to exploration will also be tested, which means consistency is key.  A response that seemed to help children was to calmly point out what was happening to the book and that we wouldn’t be able to read the book if it was torn or broken. Remember to keep an even tone and do not overreact. A lot of damage that happens to books can be fixed. If damage occurs; include the child in helping fix the book. Clear packaging tape works wonders when it comes to repairing books.

Children of all ages should have a variety of books within reach throughout the day. If you need ideas on what types of books to have in your program, check out my previous post—and remember, many libraries have educator cards with perks that may include wear-and-tear forgiveness! Physical access to books is an important foundation of early language and literacy skills.

Encourage exploration of books!

My husband and I, after many failed attempts at a compromise for the theme of our nursery, settled on a general “books” theme. That way, he gets to incorporate elements of The Hobbit and I get to pay homage to Goodnight Moon and everyone’s happy. Imagine my dismay when I happened across an article from 2010 called Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children. It was disheartening, to say the least, thinking that my son will have fewer picture books to help cultivate a lifetime of reading.

Encourage book exploration, have lots of options available in your ECE program

In the article, it discusses how picture books just aren’t selling well, and publishers don’t put out nearly as many as in the past. One of the reasons that they explain is an expectation for kindergarteners and first graders to be reading chapter books—a time when they’re just developing their independent reading skills! Beyond that, picture books develop a different set of skills than books filled with text do, and those skills are very important for reading.

Books with lots of images not only help support the story when a child needs context in reading the text, but the illustrations also allow children to participate in the story through “reading” the pictures. It’s okay if the story they create from the pictures doesn’t match up to what the author penned. It’s helping build children’s creativity, analytical thinking and ability to fill in the gaps from what is shown in the picture (dialogue, plot, character motivation, etc). These are skills that are critical when they transition to books without pictures.

That’s where we come in as educators. Let children explore the books that draw their attention. If that’s a chapter book, great! You can support them by describing how the pages feel to an infant or toddler (let them describe it, too, if they can), showing a preschooler how the words are written left-to-right/top-to-bottom or fostering a school-ager’s reading comprehension skills through open-ended questions. If it’s a picture book, that’s great, too! You can support them in many of the same ways: describe the pages and pictures with the infant and toddler, ask open-ended questions to the preschooler about what they think is going on in the story from pictures and extend the experience for the school-ager with opportunities to form opinions and inferences from the pictures.

All types of books, whether that’s picture books or chapter books or the dictionary, stimulate reading skills in children. It’s important not to set aside entire genres simply because a child had reached a chronological age. In the meantime, I’ll keep searching for picture books to add to the nursery’s bookshelves and my son and I will get to listen to my husband’s baritone voice recounting the tales of Bilbo Baggins. As long as we can accept some drool, teeth marks and taped-together pages through the process, I think we’ll all be just fine. What are your thoughts about picture books for children of all ages? Please share them in the comments!

“It’s story time!”

Recently our staff gathered together to celebrate the upcoming arrival of a little bundle of joy and the baby shower games really got our staff’s competitive juices flowing. It was fun to watch those who shouted out the answers to the names of the celebrity baby photos and equally as interesting to realize you are completely out of touch with the celebrity world. But when the next game announced was to recognize the story quote from children’s books, it was on like Donkey Kong. I had this.

It just doesn’t get any better than story time.

Story time in my classroom was the highlight of my day and my collection was deep and wide. My considerable personal collection contained the classics such as “Goodnight Moon” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and new additions such as “Llama Llama Red Pajama” and the “Fancy Nancy” collection. I took every opportunity to incorporate reading into many activities throughout the day and had a blast making it come to life for my preschoolers. Books on CD, character puppet making and theatrical performances were just some of the regular occurrences in our room.

Trips to the library were exciting escapades of what new books I would find and bring back for the week! The children knew every Monday meant new books to read and rushed to the carpet with anticipation. I was excited too! They were wide eyed during “Where the Wild Things Are,” and it was amazing to hear the way they said the words along with me during “Chicken Little” and “The Mitten.” We laughed heartily as we encouraged the very curious pigeon to NOT drive the bus or to share his beloved hotdog and bellowed “NO!!” as David chewed with his mouth open or ran to the bus in his underwear.

I used every opportunity to teach them new words and encouraged them to use the new words in sentences throughout the day. Their vocabulary exploded and I had a blast observing it. Hearing them use the word “fantastic” to describe their chicken nuggets and their friend’s artwork warmed my heart. It just doesn’t get any better than story time.

As I numbered my paper with great anticipation at the start of the game that day what didn’t occur to me was that I was surrounded by early childhood experts and we all were equally aware of the great importance of reading to young children. They too had many they knew and favored and had as vast wealth of children’s literature knowledge as I did. While I did fend well, proudly the only one who knew of the great “Skippyjon Jones,” I did not win the game. I did learn of several new books to add to my cherished collection and realized while we all know and value the importance of reading to young children, it also impacted us personally as well.

By the end of the shower we all were discussing our own personal favorites as children, as parents and as educators and I walked away with new titles to seek out and explore, even with my older children. Remember that developing the love of reading starts at a young age but can be continued throughout life as they grow and develop into elementary students, adolescents and adults.

What are some of your favorite stories to share with your children and students? What ones have you seen really impact them as well as challenge them to think and reflect? What ones really just made you all laugh, funny but all the while teaching them (and you!) to find humor and comedy in life and sometimes in yourselves?

Perhaps at your next staff meeting you could initiate a fun quiz for your staff about their story book knowledge. You may find out a lot more about children’s literature, your fellow coworkers and yourself. I mean, “Holy frijoles!” when it comes to reading, what have you got to lose?

Shouldn’t every month be National Reading Month?

There is so much energy and time invested in promoting reading as the single most important activity one can do (and it is!), and yet so little time is actually spent reading! Many states and organizations promote a single month or day for reading, but these months and days are random and do not correlate to anything specific.

Reading shouldn’t happen in planned out Hallmark-holiday style. Reading is something that happens all day every day. Reading month, like many other randomized celebrations (Black History Month, Valentine’s day, Father’s Day or Movember, for example) is not something that you should be made aware of for just one day or one month. Reading, like heritage and disease, is something that should be done, discussed and acted upon every day of every month!

Shouldn't every month be National Reading Month?

There is a ton of research into how and why. Not only is reading good fun, the language and literacy skills needed to do it well are important skills to acquire for future success in school and life. Reading also helps soothe the mind, takes you to faraway places or back in time to witness great moments, and ordinary ones, too.

I wonder why we think that giving reading such short thrift will provide us with the results we desire. If we want to see a higher percentage of early language comprehension and a higher percentage of reading at level in third grade, we should read every day (these and more outcomes are in the Strive Report Card). Reading also contributes to higher scores on the SAT, ACT and the NAEP, and with children in the United States trailing our global neighbors, it’s never been more important.

With the onslaught of technology and how rapidly our youth have taken to it we might be at a crossroads. But somewhere between winning texting awards and writing fluent essays we must hold on to what we know leads one to a life of success. So read to your children and provide them opportunities to talk about their world.

– Josh

Looking for fun? You’ll find it at the library!

Advertisers spend billions of dollars telling children exactly where to find happiness and satisfaction: fast food restaurants, toy stores, amusement parks. But there’s another place in town offering our children happiness, satisfaction and a lot more: your local library! Most libraries can’t afford a splashy ad campaign to entice our children, however, so it’s up to us to get them interested!

Begin by promoting weekly library time for your family in your center or child care home. Schedule the library to come into your center for monthly visits and make this as special as a TV show or holiday.

Educate the parents in your programs about the importance of the library and all the library has to offer. Share with them that the library offers comfortable places for them to sit with their children and enjoy books together. Reading stories to your child can be a time of closeness and sharing.  Be sure to build in time for it at every library visit, and explore the other resources your library has to offer! The children’s section in many libraries includes magazines for the very young, puzzles, tapes to listen to and toys to play with. Libraries are now equipped with computers and computer games, but nothing beats a good old fashioned story time.

Get to know your librarian. You want children to see that librarians are approachable grown-ups who can introduce them to good books. Question the librarian about where to find books that are age-approproate. Ask about special events at the library: movie nights, craft activities, puppet shows, cooking lessons and much more. Librarians know lots of ways to keep children interested in stories and books. Watching one in action is a good way to pick up some tips on reading to your own children.

Try to end each visit by following a predictable routine. You might look at something interesting such as an aquarium or a favorite picture first, then check out books and wave goodbye to the librarian. Doing things the same way each time makes it easier to get your children to leave the library, but if you’re lucky, they won’t want to!

Bathed in Books

Recently I visited my sister and three-year-old nephew. When I visit he is always ready to play; he loves to play with his cars and to play “indoor hockey.” At one point during my visit he brought an armful of books over to me and said, “Becky, will you read to me?” Of course I read the many books he brought! He sat and listened attentively, and even “read” along with some of the stories. This is a regular occurrence during my visits as well, and his bookshelf is always full of new books because his family makes a trip to the local library every Saturday.

There are a few things that are important to remember when it comes to children and reading, and for the parent or caregiver who wants to encourage early language and literacy skills, bear these things in mind!

  1. Children develop at their pace – Each child is at their own developmental stage of reading, writing, talking and listening. We must be aware of the variances of the children we work with and provide opportunities for each child appropriate to their level of learning.
  2. Interest is key – Children explore when they have the interest. Would your child rather build with blocks than listen to a story? How about a story about building or construction? Authors of children’s books have the challenge of creating books that include interesting content and eye-catching pictures. A book must catch a child’s interest in order for them to want to listen or read.
  3. Reading to children – It is important to examine your reading style. How you read to children can affect their interest in books and reading. Do show excitement? Do you read using varying voices?
  4. Books, books everywhere – Children should be “bathed” in books and language. As adults, we must make books available and accessible to young children at all times. Take a look around your environment; are there books in every learning center? Can the children handle them regularly? Be brave, offer books of poetry, building and construction, appropriate magazines, cook books, etc. Children should be exposed to varying cultures, as well.

It is important to remember that reading is an essential skill for everyday living. It is our task, as parents and early childhood providers, to expose young children to all kinds of books, and to include them in our children’s lives everyday. For more information and book ideas visit Scholastic’s Web site for children’s book lists, read-aloud hints, and learning tips. Happy reading!