Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Seeds of a Reader

One of the great things about working in the kids’ section is hearing so many picturebooks being read out loud. I often find myself straightening near the tree (which is our children’s reading area) to hear people read and take mental notes on how kids interact with it – where they laugh, where they ask very interesting questions about the characters, what books they want read again and again, what books they have no interest in whatsoever…). There have been instances where a parent (who only came with one child) suddenly has an audience of five kids. It’s wonderful that adults are raising readers right here in the store!

One of the best books to hear? The classic, The Little Mouse, The Red-Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood. Little Mouse will do anything to save his strawberry from the big hungry bear. But, he can’t hide it, or disguise it, or guard it. There’s only one thing he can do with his red, ripe strawberry…

Why is this one of my top picturebook recs? For one, the text really works with the illustrations to tell a beautiful story of bravery and sharing (without even slightly whacking the reader over the head). Also, I think it’s because this is one of the books I learned to read from. And, it’s so wonderful to hear kids learning to read with this same book.

People think reading begins with phonics, the alphabet, and early readers (the level 1, level 2, level 3 books). But, they really begin with being read to and when the child has the opportunity to interact with the story and the reader. I’ve seen parents get discouraged because their child asks too many questions about one page of a book (Where is the mouse going with that ladder? Why is the strawberry red? Why is he scarred? What's behind that door?). They automatically assume the child is not interested because they aren’t listening to the story. But they are! They are learning to analyze what’s happening and trying to understand the world. They are learning to pay attention to the small details. They’ll eventually want to finish the book, but they are taking their time – something us adults often take for granted.

Learning to read is really an amazing thing. Thousands upon thousands of years, humans have associated sounds with words, and with those words come emotion, and insight, and connection, and…so many other valuable things. Literature, whether it be through one title of a wordless picturebook or through a novel as thick as one volume of the OED, is a powerful thing. I say thing here because literature accomplishes so much – opens minds to new worlds and concepts, asks what would happen if?, let’s you know you aren’t alone in a situation, or presents the realization that someone is actually just like you…

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