As the director of EveryDay Learners, I have been fortunate to work with people and organizations that are passionate about and support early literacy.
These past six months I have been a part of the initiative Read Early, Read Often, which is a partnership with United Way of Utah County, JustServe, Orem City and several religious organizations, along with several businesses in Orem. The initiative was started to provide families and caregivers with resources and information on easy ways to boost children’s literacy and learning. It has been inspiring to hear stories of the amazing changes that take place just from encouraging families, schools and those who work in early education to make reading, singing and talking a part of children’s everyday lives.
One of the local businesses that supports the Read Early, Read Often initiative is Utah Valley Storage and RV. The business owners provided three storage units to store the thousands of books that were donated through a book drive held in December. The office manager, Candace, and her children would make sure the books were sorted and placed in boxes.
Each week they would sort through hundreds of boxes and bags, and one week one of her sons noticed the Harry Potter series. He decided he wanted to read the series and made a goal to read one book each week. His mother said that reading wasn’t something he usually enjoyed, but he found a book he loved and has almost finished the whole series in a little over a month. Whenever his mother wonders where he is, she will find him with his nose buried in a book.
Each time I hear a parent tell me a story about their child’s favorite book I am reminded of the message Mem Fox, children’s author and reading specialist, has stressed: “The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading. It isn’t achieved by the book alone, nor by the child alone, nor by the adult who’s reading aloud — is it the relationship winding between all three, bringing them together in easy harmony.”
When people recall their reading experiences, it is not just about the book — it is a shared experience. Jim Trelease, author and reading expert, has stressed to parents and those who work with children that reading needs to be a pleasurable experience to increase the likelihood of children wanting to read on their own.
He states, “Every time you read to a child, you’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain, conditioning it to associate books and print with pleasure.” In our homes and school settings we can provide children a positive emotional spark that supports children in loving a book, enjoying spending time with a parent or caregiver, and wanting the experience again and again.
Talk to your children about your favorite book and why it is your favorite. Open the door to letting your child like or dislike certain books. If your children like to read the same book repeatedly, read that book over and over. This repetition provides something children can predict and it makes them feel safe. You can add new books by letting your child pick their favorite book and then picking one yourself that you would like to share with them.
As you read to your child, there are many ways you can make the event enjoyable. Get comfortable. Make a reading tent or find a place that your children enjoy. Let your child play with a toy if they want while you read to them. When my own children were younger, two of them would always rather be moving than sitting, so reading time at my house was during bath time when they were playing with the bubbles and other toys.
Remember, reading should be something that everyone enjoys, so make it fun! You will create memories for them that will connect you forever and develop for them a bond with reading that will positively impact their lives and learning.