Learning to read begins before a child is actually able to read the letters on the page and decipher their meanings. Before children learn to read, they learn what books are, what they are for, how to hold them and how to copy reading. They learn that they are supposed to turn the pages from right to left, and that the reading goes from left to right. Before their little brains can interpret the meaning of the markings on the page, they come to understand that there IS meaning in the markings on the page waiting to be interpreted.
A young child sitting down and pretend reading to himself is both preparing to learn to read and also building a love for reading. Loving to read at an early age only comes by one method – by being read to. Again and again and again.
It’s through storytime, being read book after book, that young children begin to understand that those pages hold some mysterious code that unlocks the door to any number of adventures. Being read book after book, introducing a variety of storylines and characters feeds a young child’s natural curiousity. Reading and re-reading favorite books and favorite themes feeds a young child’s desire for the literature that most interests them and provides a sense of comfort and security as well. Toddlers do well with routines and constants, and that favorite book fits nicely into that need because it is the same wonderful story, over and over and over again.
As tiresome as they can be, the words “just one more story, mommy?” are also a very beautiful thing. How comforting to know that we are laying one more brick in their road to reading success, and more importantly, their loving to read.
These days my 3 year old son (nearly 4!) can be found with a book in hand several times a day, quietly turning the pages and pretending to read it to himself – or perhaps to some unseen imagined companion. At bed time the request is always the same: ” I want three stories, mommy. THREE.” And the request is always followed up with the most bewitching grin, adorable dimple and twinkling eyes. Who could resist?
We are poised at this most delicious moment in time – a point in time where he is both old enough to pay attention for the whole story, and young enough to still need me to read it to him, a point where he is still momma’s little boy as he rests he head on my shoulder to look at the pages but old enough to make astute observations of the illustrations and ask thoughtful questions about the characters. These days are not here for long.
We read a lot of books about Kings and Knights, Princes and Dragons these days. Little Prince (how fitting, right?) has a crazy vivid imagination and a fascination with any kind of knight, soldier or pirate (basically any character with a weapon!) Some of his favorites are Snoring Beauty, Max Lucado’s The Way Home: A Princess Story, The Squire and the Scroll, and Rapunzel by Zelinsky.They’re all really good books and they all have excellent illustrations, possibly one of the reasons he loves them so much.
Before I know it, I’ll blink and he’ll be this lanky 10 year old on the couch reading Treasure Island and he’ll probably scoff if I ask him to lay his head on my shoulder while I read to him. All the reason to read “just one more, momma!” right now. In the land of foregone lullabies and forgotten rocking chairs, where the Im-So-Bigs have vanquished the big stuffed puppy and exiled the plastic firetruck toddler bed into the land of I-Want-A-Big-Boy-Bed – a prince and his mother rule the kingdom of Storytime, slaying dragons and rescuing princesses to the fullest and wildest extent of one little boy’s imagination.