The results are in! Reading books to children is a really, really a good thing. Along with its academic benefits of increasing language and vocabulary strength, reading aloud with children helps them see the wonder that can be found within book pages. Lap reading may be their first encounter with the magic of books, print and illustrations, so frequently engaging in that activity is a given. But how do we fully teach them about book magic? What might we do, long before they begin to consider reading book’s by themselves, to make them understand the full fabulousity of books?
Of course, getting children to the point of independently choosing to pick up a book and enjoy it alone is the essential last step toward daily, self-directed reading. What magic gets them there? How do we help children understand that the books we read aloud with them are readily available afterward for them to take off shelf and enjoy any time as playthings?
A good first start is to create a space easily accessible by children. Store their books on a bottom shelf or in a basket within their reach. Place age-appropriate books near the rest of their toys, inviting them to partake. Soon, these children with full access to colorful picture books will start bringing them to the adults and older siblings in their lives, requesting some reading time rather than always being beckoned for reading time.
Another way to introduce children to the magic of books is to make them interesting. When you read aloud, change voices for characters and for the narration of stories. Act out storybooks, making dramatic gestures appropriate for dialogue or even freeform dancing to express the feelings?
Okay, that might be going too far…or not… but the essential message here is that YOU can expand the benefit of lap reading by offering deeper invitations into the wonders of books that will result in children seeking to take control of their own reading. THEY must become the reading magicians, working wonders in their heads and hearts with a book in their hand. What we’re ultimately after is for them always wanting to bop into any bookstore or library they encounter, to continually seek out and enjoy books that express their interests and values, and to immerse themselves into the kind of “lost in the magic of a book” reading that will make them lifelong, voracious readers and thus, lifelong learners.