When we adults share what’s in our hearts and minds with young children, when we share what we feel is important, delightful or surprising, new windows about how the world works opens for kids. Their casual or intense observations of what we think is important and how our engagements with the various areas of focus in our lives rivet their attention.
Every observed reaction plants a seed in young minds that may sprout in their ever-expanding worlds. If teaching or parenting mean anything, every interaction with kids should inspire children who are little learning machines. As children interact with the world, lessons rich with new promise and the magic of discovery abound.
Everything in this weekly blog emphasizes books and reading as critically important for paving children’s pathways to success in school and especially in their lives. This blog’s focus is the power of OUR personal reading on THEIR personal reading.
It is a rock-solid teaching and parenting choice to read age-appropriate books together with children, “discussing” characters and content with even the youngest ones. Yet children need to see teachers and parents reading OUR books, too. When kids observe us reading, it sparks and enriches their growing relationship with book-based explorations upon which they can begin to build their lifelong learning. And when the time comes in their constantly shifting attentions, they’ll ask us about why we like to read and how they could do that, too.
So, we must not just read children’s books with THEM. We must read the kinds of books that WE enjoy…alone…for ourselves and our own lifelong information and intellectual growth.
Our actions SHOW little ones our values. It’s necessary to make a regular show of our reading, of how we handle and thoughtfully care for our own books, magazines, newspapers and all the rest. Kids need to see us lost in our OWN reading and to sense OUR urges to get back into those pages. Children don’t miss much in what we do, and early on they won’t “get” reading , but they can definitely sense that reading is important to us…that it is personally fulfilling for grown ups to sit with and give our full attention over to OUR books. They need to regularly see that reading is valued and that books are something enjoyable and worth keeping in a special place where we can easily return to them.
My encouragement to purposefully arrange for children to watch us read (and write!) personally meaningful texts is not casual. It is critical. It paves the way to the development of their baby-step literacy, lighting the long fuse to launching their independent learning lives.
Then, when they get around to asking about our reading, we can take a moment to share with them how important and personally satisfying reading and books are to us and OUR ongoing lifelong learning.
This is a powerful and easy lesson worth teaching every day.