Hello, Moon!

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Families with young children need books. Lots of books!

Why?

For starters, research conducted in many countries around the globe prove that the number of books present in a child’s home are an absolute predictor of his academic success.* Books in the home can lead to enriched conversations that occur there. New ideas, new topics, new language, new possibilities.

Another reason is that books can enhance the thousand chance encounters children have each day, like noticing animals they see during a walk or the moon when they gaze up at the night sky. An enriching shower of language found in the pages of a book can complement and expand ordinary life experiences into extraordinary ones.The Night Sky 2014_cover-2

Young children are learning machines. They work all day, every day, to make sense of their lives. Therefore, moments of engagement with the world and conversations about those moments provide more fertile ground for learning.

If a baby, toddler or preschooler is constantly bustled about without older family members taking the time to talk to tots about the world around them, they miss opportunities to relax and personally engage with natural beauty or other interesting daily events.

On the other hand, if older siblings smile and point up to the moon, saying, “Look at the Moon, Sister!,” a small baby will hear the utterance, connect it with the gesture and immediately wonder why her brother made that noise. Her brain is laser focused on the experience and the language of her sibling.

A more advanced toddler may hear “Moon,” point at the shiny orb and even repeat its name, looking for an approving smile.

Moon 500Large learning gains can be made if such engagements are extended with picture books. The simple act of reading books aloud provides opportunities for a casual, but important focus on everyday occurrences, like a moon spotting. An adult or older sibling can explain these experiences, talk about them, and share their own life stories and wonderings. Accessing a home, online or local library bookshelf in response to a day’s events can initiate inquiries that, at a minimum, spur deeper and richer conversation than would otherwise occur.

This is how rearing a child to be an active learner, ever alert to literacy-connected educative possibilities, plays out. Brain development, concept development and language development in these most fertile early years all spring from such encounters.  If we seek to contribute to the future, each of us — educators, business people, parents, other family members and friends — must step up and read with children and/or discuss books that expand on a day’s chance encounters. If we all do this small thing, over time, benefits accrue yielding young children more than ready for school and for life beyond the home.

Experience + Language = Learning. Let’s all read, talk, relax and have fun with books!

 

*Evans, M.D.R., Jonathan Kelley and Joanna Sikora. 2014. “Scholarly Culture and Academic Performance in 41 Nations.” Social Forces 92(4): 1573-1605

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4 Responses to “Hello, Moon!”

  1. Sharon Goodman July 22, 2016 at 6:34 am #

    My brother has his PhD. I finished an advanced degree as well. When my father died, we discovered that he had filled our home with over forty thousand books. Many, actually the vast majority of the books, we never read. Nevertheless, those volumes shaped our view of the world. We had spent our formative years swimming in letters, words, ideas, and conversation.

    In elementary school we were always in the bluebird reading groups. When I was in second grade, the teacher asked me to tutor low readers in my class. Before he left elementary school, my brother became an expert on World War II aircraft by reading through the “A” volume of the encyclopedia. His teacher invited him to share with the class. He held forth on the topic for over an hour.

    You get the idea. We are examples of what Mark Condon is describing. It’s not that we were so exceptional. We had the blessing of an exceptionally language-rich launch.

    Ironically, my father, the man of forty thousand books, was the son of farming immigrants. He first encountered a few books in a one room school house. Even though his home was print poor, I think those Ukrainian farmers were verbally rich. They were storytellers. I really agree with Condon’s point that children need lots of conversation; it gives them an opportunity to take ownership of words.

    • Mark Condon July 22, 2016 at 7:40 am #

      What a terrific story you share, Sharon. You put flesh and blood on the bare bones of my blog. Thanks so much!

    • Sasha July 23, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

      I once read that a child should personally own 80 books before you enter formal schooling. Whether or or not that number is truly the correct number, I have witnessed school-wide book-deficit homes where I have taught in Detroit, Michigan. I also have witnessed neighborhood libraries closing and the unusual and next to non-existence presence of libraries in our urban schools. When there is a school library, often the administrators will not allow children to take books home for fear of not getting them back. Although I have no data to back the correlation of this set of circumstances I can witness the high percentage of far below grade-level low reading skills of children in Detroit. In the last two schools where I taught more than 80% of the children struggled with learning to read (and write)! When I have organized donated book giveaways at my school, more often than I can count a child (over third grade age and even into middle school) has told me the book-gift was the very first book that they have personally owned. If we want America to be great, we need to become a nation of readers who do not let economic circumstances of schools and the individuals who learn in them come between them and the opportunities that literacy brings.

      • Mark Condon July 23, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

        Wonderful insight from someone that has seen the ravages of book scarcity, Sasha. Thank you for this.
        Classroom libraries, School libraries, neighborhood libraries, little free libraries, digital libraries, home libraries and personal libraries could offer children a constant swirl of wonderful book choices, but the books have to be engaged. Not just the print and images, but the ideas and vicarious experiences must be discussed. Families that are largely illiterate can be led by caring educators and neighbors to enjoy conversation with their children about the images in picture books if nothing else. These families and anyone new to reading are the intended audience for the audio book narrations in the free Unite for Literacy library. There is much work to do, but it seems more and more folks are coming to understand that it’s the boost books give to richness of language and conversational sharing that provides the book’s first positive impact.