“The power of a parent or teacher sitting down and telling a story, allowing kids to paint pictures in their heads, is a very powerful tool.”
—Tony Stead, Senior National Literacy Consultant, Mondo Publishing, New York
Reading books to our young children is one of the most important things we can do, but in today’s busy world, far too many children do not have stories regularly read to them, if at all. This is grievous!
Unfortunately, not all children like to read. And it seems, some children find it too embarrassing to admit to reading a book for any reason. In the face of such grim information, what are the best storybooks to engage more children?
Any book they want to read! On any topic that captures their interest and attention.
Kids should be allowed to read whatever they enjoy. Honestly, there’s no such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again controversy rears its ugly head when naysayers claim Enid Blyton or RL Stine were bad authors, or that comics foster illiteracy. Absurd!
It’s far too easy for well-meaning adults to destroy a child’s love of reading without even being aware. When we stop letting children read what they enjoy, or give them worthy-but-dull books that we think are important – we wind up with a generation convinced that reading is uncool and, worse, unpleasant.
Reading standards in schools have gone downhill. Did you know that in 1945, the average elementary school student had a vocabulary of 10,000 words? But today, children have a vocabulary of only 2,500 words. Tragic!
There’s learning to read, and then there’s loving to read.
“Research shows children learn more in their first eight years than they do in the rest of their lives. This is a powerful time to teach them to be readers and writers. Most of our problems could be solved if parents could be reading to and talking to children from birth, giving them a solid oral language basis. Instead of enhancing children’s imaginations, today’s media have stunted it. Kids are unable to paint pictures in their heads unless they read. Now they all have pictures painted for them through TV and video. When kids have to create their own stories, they rely on what they saw on television last night rather than form it in their minds.” —Tony Stead, Senior National Literacy Consultant, Mondo Publishing, New York
Author Jody Hedlund believes that when we are intentional about fostering a love of books and reading, we lay a solid foundation for young readers and I agree with her. I love her list, Ten Ways to Foster a Love of Reading. Bestselling novelist and renowned nonfiction writer Anna Quindlen also offers some excellent tips in her interview, Raising Readers.
I was lucky growing up in that we had a substantial home library as well as access to a public library, so I was never without a book or three. Reading was my sustenance and my solace; a shy child, books offered a respite from the bewildering world of grownups by transporting me to mythical, magical lands, even if just for a little while. I would read whenever I could, even times when I wasn’t supposed to be reading. (Flashlight under the covers does strain eyesight, so give your kid’s a bedside lamp!)
I’ve nurtured a lifelong love affair with books and to this day, read several books a week. Once I graduated from picture books, some of my childhood favorites were The Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Heidi Johanna Spyri, and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I also loved Nancy Drew mysteries and Brenda Starr Reporter comic books. I know, kind of girlie, but I also read every single Hardy Boys book in the series along with all of my brother’s super hero comics. But I digress, but my point is this: make books accessible, read aloud to your children, set an example by reading yourself, take your kids to the library (get them their own library cards), and you will be giving your children the gift of reading, to last a lifetime.
What books did you love to read as a child?