Families with young children need books. Lots of books!
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.
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.
Large 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!