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Raising Readers, Issue #001 - Getting a Good Start
February 19, 2009
You're an honored recipient of our first newsletter! Our goal: to help you raise better readers.
Our book reviewers are the heart and soul of Best Children's Books. They sift through the bad books (so you don't have to) and find the good ones!
Suzanne Holland is one of our book reviewers, as well as a kindergarten teacher with 9 years of experience. Read her tips on what parents can do to make sure their little ones grow up to be enthusiastic readers.
Each issue we spotlight a way you can participate at Best Children's Books. Did you know we're interested in reading a book review by you?
It may be a made up word (combining "parent" and "entrepreneur"), but it describes a very special person. Think entrepreneurship is beyond you? Think it's incompatible with parenting?
This email was designed to be read in an email reader that reads html. If you don't have one or yours is turned off, this letter might not look great but I'm guessing you're still smart enough to make sense of what I'm saying!
My name is Steve Barancik. About three years ago I started this website. I wanted to create a website for parents looking for ways to pass on a love of reading to their children.
I was doing it all by myself back then. Today the site is some 500 pages strong, and I'm joined by the best children's book reviewers on the web. Nearly 1000 people a day visit Best Children's Books, so I've met some great people, all of whom share a love of reading and a strong belief in its importance.
Thanks for joining us! If you have any suggestions for the newsletter or the site, I hope you'll pass them along.
I want to focus on our reviewers this issue. Best Children's Books' first reviewer came on board less than 6 months ago, and already we have a bunch of great people actively contributing.
Have you checked out the book reviews section?
We have moms and teachers and moms who are teachers. These great ladies are finding some real gems. If you ever find that the books on your kids' shelves are getting a bit too familiar, you can be sure to find a great book you've never heard of in the Reviews Section.
Reading preparation begins long before children enter school. One could even make the case that it begins in utero!! (More on that assertion, later!) Reading skills are an important indicator of school success and naturally, good parents everywhere want to provide their child with this vital foundation.
How then can parents prepare their child?
Read out loud to your child. Read every day. Read even when they are babies. Enjoy it!
It sounds so very simple, and it is!! It is not so simple, however, that it does not have empirical data to back it up. Studies have shown that children who come to school exposed to a variety of language and literacy experiences are apt to grasp literacy concepts more easily, have improved comprehension and concentration skills and communicate more effectively.
Think back to some of your favorite memories of when you were little. Do any of them involve bedtime stories? My own children can still recall their favorite books with ease, those that we read over and over (until Mom and Dad want to throw away the book!). There is no doubt that the book of choice spoke to them in some way, but there's more to it than that.
Reading out loud to your child is such a warm and cozy experience.
Even before the book is opened or the first word spoken, you have established this time as special and valuable. All your attention is on your child (or children), and the message that conveys is very powerful. You are saying to your child that nothing is more important than the two of you sharing a story. The emotional benefits of their having this undivided time with you are far reaching. You are impressing upon your child the value you place on books.
Even babies benefit from the close positioning and comfort in your arms. While babies can’t yet understand the words they are nonetheless following your voice, its cadence and volume (in those last weeks of pregnancy the fetus shows preference for its mother’s voice). It is in these early months that the baby’s brain begins to hardwire language development. Babies who aren’t spoken to or sung to languish behind those who are.
What type of book to read?
Babies initially love black and white graphics followed by bright, primary colors. Board books with simple texts satisfy older babies. At this stage, reading out loud can be interactive, with a point and name approach. How many toddlers love to point to the dog, the elephant, and the apple? Definitely, language development is at work.
Preschoolers love stories with a plot. They relate to characters who face situations similar to their own; i.e., losing a tooth, going to the doctor’s, having a new sibling. Reading stories such as these give young children opportunities to verbalize and name their feelings, a trait necessary for social success in school.
They also enjoy silly stories with crazy rhymes. Rhyming is an excellent way to prepare for reading readiness. In a teacher’s viewpoint, rhyming is one of the main building blocks of reading and writing development. If a child can rhyme cat with hat, mat, bat, rat...then he will also be able to develop the writing skill of creating word families (“if I can write and read 'op' then I can build more words from that”). Dr. Seuss books "pop" immediately to mind!
Does this skill have to be limited to books, only? No way!! Every time I was stuck in traffic with my kids we would begin a variety of language games. “How many words can we rhyme with ___?” “What is the opposite of ___?” “What words sound the same but mean different things?” (sun/son, knight/night)
Sing!! Teach the traditional nursery rhymes! It’s all language development!!!
Beyond the obvious socio-emotional benefits, reading to your children aids their language and cognitive development.
Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, asserts that children can comprehend text that is actually above their independent reading level. By reading quality children’s books, you are exposing your children to rich vocabulary, proper grammar, differing points of view and more sophisticated subject matter. (Trelease’s book provides age appropriate book lists.)
You are also exposing them to the ebb and flow of language and the fluency and pacing of a good reader.
Think you aren’t a good reader? Practice while they are babies! Be dramatic! Make your voice change for each character, vary your volume, and add those special sound effects children love; animal snorts, car engines, earth shattering sneezes! Also speak the repetitive lines together; it will teach your child to anticipate and follow text.
Try “reading” the many wordless books out there. The illustrations are beautiful and it gives your child opportunities to play with plot and characters.
While fiction is undoubtedly appealing, many children love non-fiction, informational stories. I can’t tell you how many times children have come into my classroom prepared to share all they know about dinosaurs, sharks or butterflies. There is a wealth of non-fiction books out there designed to appeal to young readers.
Poetry is also a genre that should be explored. Every kid seems to love books by Shel Silverstein; the sillier the better!
Listening to books is one piece of the reading process. Knowledge of the alphabet letters and their sounds, and conventions of print (reading top to bottom, left to right) are also important skills. However, please do not transform the wonderful experience of reading together into mini prep sessions!
Teachers can and will introduce the direct instruction that they have mastered in the best format for each child. Over the years, I have had parents boast that their child was “reading” at age three. The child may have been using a set of decoding skills at an early age but was not necessarily any more advanced in comprehension skills. Regardless of the early skills of some children, most children level out by third grade. It is far more important to impart a love of books and establish early reading habits.
In this frantic and competitive environment of school performance assessments, tracking and college coaching, it is reassuring that anyone can give their child the very best possible gift for a lifetime, the gift of reading.
Truly, it is the gift that keeps on giving!
- Suzanne Holland, M.Ed. (Read Suzanne's bio.)
Steve here again. Here's a way you can be part of Best Children's Books...
I want to read what you thought of a particular children's book. Say what was good and what wasn't so good about it. Did you like the illustrations? Did you find the book enriching? Tell us about your child's response too.
If you have a particular book in mind, write up a review and send it to me by replying to this newsletter. If you'd like to write a review but DON'T have a particular book in mind....
Visit our reviewing section. Find a book that one of our reviewers has written about. Read that review and then write your own. Say what you agree with, and what you might disagree with.
I started Best Children's Books three years ago as a foster dad with a vision. That made me a "parentepreneur. You can be one too!" A parentepreneur is
I built Best Children's Books with the help of an extraordinary company called Site Build It, or SBI. SBI provides a powerful package of point and click software tools that let a non-techie like me create a money-earning site like this, right from my home computer.
Is there an hour in your day - spent, perhaps, in front of the TV - that could be better spent growing another income for your family?
Here's an article by Site Build It that you might find informative. Warning: This is not "get rich quick!" It's "real effort yielding real results," and I LOVE telling people about it. So please know that you can always contact me with questions or for more details.
Please remember that this newsletter is perfectly suitable for forwarding to friends and acquaintances with a special interest in children's books! You can also recommend to them that they sign up for the newsletter themselves.
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