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Fostering a Love for Reading

May 30, 2011
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From Canton Patch:

By Vanessa McManus | Email the author | May 17, 2011 Opinion

Fostering a Love for Reading

Reading to your child is such a simple act with so many benefits.

There are not many simple things you can do for your children that will be as beneficial and rewarding for their development as reading to them. Not only is the time you spend reading to them wonderful quality time for you to connect, but it also helps them build on many important skills for their future like listening, language development, and imaginative enrichment.

As a kid, I devoured books.

I can remember as early as elementary school age getting caught up in novels by Judy Blume or spending a weekend in my bedroom blowing through the latest from The Babysitters Club or Sweet Valley High.  The titles may not have always been classics, but that was the fun part – getting to pick what you wanted to read and escaping to immerse yourself in another world.

Each school year, I plowed through so many books that I would earn more personal pan pizzas from the Book It! program than I could possibly eat. It is probably more likely my parents preferred not to dine so frequently at Pizza Hut but I do have them to thank somewhat as I credit the beginning of my love affair with books to my parents who actively read to me from an early age.

Visits to the Canton Public Library were such a permanent fixture in my childhood that my mind still recalls almost every nook and cranny of the way the building looked back then before the remodel and renovations.

From the clear flooring in “the stacks” that I was always a little wary of falling through, to the book elevator I once tried to convince my kid brother was for small people like himself to use, to the placement and set up of the checkout desk in the Junior Room, the one thing that has remained the same is the wonderful smell of books.

It was only natural that I would look forward to reading to my own children when I became a parent.

My oldest, however, did not get the memo that kids love being read to for quite some time.

Try as I might to snuggle up with Lily on the glider when she was a baby, she showed little interest and gave me a bored stare. As she grew a bit more mobile, she demonstrated her preference of certain books by munching on the pages and throwing others to the floor.

It wasn’t until she was almost two that she quite suddenly developed the desire and patience to sit with me and hear a story. My perseverance paid off as she now asks for several books to be read to her throughout the course of the day.

We are at the “Why?” stage right now with Lily such that any book takes three times longer to get through because of all the questions she asks, but this just tells me she is learning and trying to figure out how things work in the world.

Like many parents, my requests for her to go to bed after our nighttime routine are often met with pleas of, “Just one more book, Mommy?” And it is hard to deny that.

Jack, on the other hand, has always loved books.

As a baby, he listened attentively to entire stories and quickly learned to grab and turn the pages himself. As soon as he could walk, he would often be found near one of our bookcases pulling books out and stacking them on the ground, then finally making a selection. He would toddle over to me, shove the book into my hands, and plunk himself into my lap, which is the cue to begin. Always satisfied by his choice of reading material, he still laughs knowingly at the end of every book before he gets up to find another one.

With these habits, I hope that they both continue to enjoy reading as they grow older. It would be nice if required summer reading in school did not make them groan and complain, but that might be expecting too much

I will also add that receiving books as gifts is usually a welcome change of pace from the seemingly endless parade of toys around birthdays because they don’t take up a lot of space or make as much of a mess as so many toys out there do.

So I encourage you to read to your child every day. If they are older, go to the library, sign your child up for his or her own library card and give them the gift of reading. It might mean more than you could ever realize.

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