In her TED Talk Rebecca Bellingham tell us, “As a teacher and a mom, I cannot think of many things that matter as much as reading aloud to our kids, at home and at school.” I completely agree with her. Being read aloud to stimulates the brain, triggers the imagination, transports you to another world, broadens your horizons with experiences that you may never personally have, triggers your emotions, allows you to put yourself in another person’s shoes and escape your own life, if only briefly. It is magic!
Rebecca passionately states, “Reading aloud gives kids a special kind of access to the transformative power of a story and the experience of what real reading is all about, which is to deeply understand, to think, to learn and discuss big ideas about the world, about the lives of others and about ourselves.” If you are reading aloud to your child daily, as you should be, these BIG conversations occur naturally. They are so important to the process of growing up.
What struck me most in this talk is that she puts forward the idea that reading aloud to groups of children makes it possible for some children to “get inside a book” in a way that they’ve never done before. For some children, this is their only opportunity to “get inside a book” and to see that movie inside their head. If no one is reading to them at home, this is it.
“Getting inside a book” is one of those very important stepping stones to reading. Children eventually want to control when and how they have this experience for themselves and therefore are motivated to pick up a book they may be dying to read because their friends are talking about it.
Reading aloud could be a catalyst to life-long reading and high literacy levels. The power of reading aloud to children cannot be underestimated.
“Even infants get profound cognitive and behavioral benefits from sharing a vivid story,” says Ms. Gurdon of the Wall Street Journal (18 January 2019).
If you are a parent you simply must read this article I came across in The Wall Street Journal. It is written by Ms. Gurdon who writes the WSJ’s “Children’s Books” column. The magic and power that lie behind the picture book have been expressed so well by her that I cannot help but publish the link here so that you can read the original article.
A legal guardian must accompany a child who wants to join
Children will need to show their birth certificates
If you have all the correct documents
A library card will be issued to you.
In some provinces you have to wait for 5 days after application before you can collect your library card.
For those wishing to take four or less books at any one time, membership is FREE.
For those wanting to take more than four books, it will cost +/- R30 per year for membership.
The librarian will explain the rules to you.
Libraries improve community literacy levels
Libraries are community hubs that allow for leisure & education, giving community members access to books, magazines and in some cases audio-visual materials. In communities where residents are unable to afford books, the local library can play a very important role in developing and improving literacy levels within the community. Libraries are an invaluable resource and they are often under-utilised.
When you join a public library you will discover that many libraries run reading and storytelling sessions on a weekly basis as well as during during the holidays. Find out where your local library is and what activities they offer.
I’d like to tell you a bit about some of the wonderful libraries I have experienced.
I personally love the Sandton Library, located on Nelson Mandela Square. It is a beautifully lit, multi-storey space with lots of interesting nooks and crannies. A variety of seating and tables to work at throughout the building, make it the perfect place to spend some down time or do some research.
There is a separate section for children. Pre-school children have their own enclosed room with a conveniently located bathroom right there.
The staff are wonderfully friendly and helpful. As libraries go it is well worth a visit. They do run special events for children during the holidays, which they advertise on their entrance boards.
Johannesburgs public library – known as the Johannesburg Main Library – is based in the city centre, in Market Street. It has over 1.5-million books in its collection and has a reported membership of over 250 000. It was first opened in 1935. Due to planned extensive upgrades it closed in 2009 for three years, and was opened again in 2012.
When visiting you will see a beautiful, Italianate structure sitting across the road from the ANC’s Luthuli House. There is a coffee shop located on the premises. The toilets, lifts, electrics and air-conditioning were upgraded in 2009. The new library contains three floors. Of the three floors, the first two floors are a literacy and numeracy centre. There are desks to work at and free internet access is available.
This library is one of my all time favourites. I spent much time here as a student and later as an adult, mainly because I loved the building so much. Each time I return to Port Elizabeth I make a point of popping in.
Unfortunately, for now, it is being renovated, and renovations should be completed in 2021. It is the only historic building built as a public library that is still operating as a public library today.
Experienced teachers share things parents should do to set their kids up for success – Part 3 of 10
Developing a culture of reading in your home is one of the greatest gifts that you can give your children. If a child develops a love of reading, everything from that point onwards, in terms of their education, is that much easier. Experienced teachers will tell you that those children who read daily, and who read for leisure, are usually academically stronger than their peers.
No book and no reading taking place!
As teachers, it is often reported to us by children that there are no books in their homes – none owned and none on loan from a library. In addition, they also report that no one in their family reads, and more importantly, that no one reads to them. It breaks my heart to hear this. Read! Read anything and everything you can lay your hands on and let your children see you do it. Even if you struggle to read – let them witness it – they will respect you more in the long run. By watching you face up to the challenge they will know that reading is something worth struggling over.
Foundations for a love of reading
The foundations for a love of reading and reading fluency are set when a significant adult regularly reads, or tells stories, to a very young child. This is why, in so many families, it is called a bedtime story as it forms part of a nightly routine for approximately 365 days of the year. See my article on ‘Why you CAN’T skip reading to your child for 20 minutes per day‘ click here.
If you have not been doing regular bedtime stories, do not fear, as research tells us that it is never too late to start. If you do not have a book in your home right now, start making up stories as part of your nightly routine.
I know of families who write and illustrate their own stories on paper, folding them into books. The whole family gets involved and the stories grow and evolve through the laughter, imagination, knowledge and creativity that is brought to the table after dinner or on a Sunday afternoon. They treasure these family creations along with the few books they have, re-reading them every so often.
Another activity which has proven to work well for generating stories is this game:
Each family member gets a scrap piece of paper to write on.
Each person writes down 10 words.
Of these 10 words at least one word must be a name, one a place, one an animal and 3 words can be objects. The rest can be random words.
I always try to introduce one made up word for a bit of fun e.g. Oligonk.
When the lists are complete, put them in a hat and take a draw.
You have 20 minutes to write a story based on the 10 words provided.
These stories can then be read aloud, passed on or read silently and provide a variety of reading material.
Young children can work together with a parent. Older children can work independently.
For a fun additional activity, each person can illustrate the main character of their story e.g. What do you think an Oligonk looks like?
Read by example
If South Africa is going to improve its literacy levels, as it needs to, we have to start introducing regular reading into our homes as a matter of urgency. With a family culture of reading, children will start to read by example. They won’t feel that reading is only a school activity or a homework chore. I believe that reading is supposed to be fun, exiting, comforting and stress free. It should be one of a child’s favourite activities. Think of stories around a campfire in the old days.
In order to feel motivated to read for themselves, children should see adults reading around them on a daily basis. Things such as…
A child who sees the adults around him / her reading will know that reading is important and that literacy is important. A child that never sees people reading will believe that reading is only a school activity and is only for children. Unfortunately, if none of the adults in your family are book worms, you’ll just have to fake it. The school curriculum of today does not allow as much time for reading in the classroom as my generation had growing up. Therefore, if you want your children to be literate and fluent in reading, you had better start playing your part.
South Africans spend twice as much on chocolate each year than they do on books.
Before you mention that books are unaffordable in South Africa, as a reason for why we lack a culture of reading, consider this: South Africans apparently spend twice as much money on chocolate each year than they do on books (see Further reading – Literacy: Once upon a time, parents taught their children to read). Based on this alone, I think we as South Africans can afford to start a culture of reading. Buy books, instead of sweets, and save money by not paying the dentist.
Libraries are an underutilised resource in South Africa
There is a library of some variety in every community in our country, which is practically free. I’ve looked up libraries across Johannesburg on Google Maps for my students, in an attempt to prove to them that there is a library on their doorstep.
As a child I visited the library every week, along with my mother and my two sisters. It was just something that we did and we never questioned it. The expectation that we would read was no different to the expectation that we’d would brush our teeth, take a bath or do our homework. My mother spent hours reading to us, until we could do so for ourselves. It paid off as we are all avid readers today. Our family culture of reading is stronger than ever. My retired parents read for a minimum of 6 hours a day on average, sometimes more.
Advantages of reading
Reading and a family culture of reading leads to…
a wider vocabulary
greater exposure to good grammar, spelling and punctuation
improved visual memory
improved writing skills
development of the imagination
improved analytical thinking
improved verbal skills
greater general knowledge
being able to educate yourself on any topic
What’s not to love about reading?
No matter your own level of literacy, find things to read and read them in front of your children. Be the example!
Read with your children whenever you can.
Even if your own reading fluency isn’t perfect, never be shy to try reading to younger learners. You can use pictures and voice animation to tell the story. They’ll love every minute.
Reading pictures is part of the pre-reading strategies that need to be encouraged in young children.
When children see adults trying to do something that they are not good at or find difficult, they start to believe that it must be important and that they should also try. There is never any shame in trying and this is a life lesson that children should learn.
Ask older children in your family to read stories to the younger children or even to the whole family. It is good practice for them and they can play a part in developing your family’s culture of reading.
Join your local library and visit regularly, along with your children.
Teach your children how to take care of books. Have a special place in your home where library books are safely kept.
Collect free magazines from stands outside the shops and scatter them around your home.
Bring home the newspaper if possible.
Create a print rich environment.
Ask friends, family and work colleagues to collect old magazines for you.
If there is someone in your family who is unable to read, ask them if they would be willing to make up stories for the children – it will help to spark their imaginations and will go a long way is helping you to develop a culture of reading and storytelling in your home. Old people are usually very good at this and as such they are a great resources.
The idea for this article comes from a poster I came across on Pinterest that blew me away. Finally, I had come across an infographic that hammers home the point that reading to your child daily is NOT negotiable. It easily outlines the accumulative effect of reading to your child from early on, and highlights how disadvantaged your child could be if they are only read to for half – or less than half – of the time of their peers.
Take a look at the poster below and you’ll see what I mean. Click here to purchase posters or to download a PDF version from the creator.
In this poster you can see that by the time James goes to nursery school he has been read to for 28,800 minutes, an accumulated 20 minutes per day 5 days a week. Travis, on the other hand, has only been read to for 5760 minutes before he goes to nursery school, an accumulated 4 minutes per day 5 days a week. The difference between 28,800 and 5760 minutes is significant.
The questions then posed by April Greerwho created the poster are…
child would you expect to know more?
child would you expect to have a better vocabulary?
child would you expect to be better prepared for school?
child would you expect to be better prepared to learn to read?
child would you expect to be more successful in school?
do you think each child will feel about himself as a new student?
These are profound questions.
They force us to consider the fact that doing something, that some consider irrelevant, such as reading a bedtime story to your child for a mere 20 minutes a night, can have such a significant impact on…
their exposure to words and vocabulary development,
and their ability to achieve success with greater ease.
While some children are still busy with the struggle of learning to read, your child could move on to reading to learn.
So the next time you consider putting your child straight to bed, without a bedtime story, you may want to reconsider.
Tips for bedtime reading:
Make bedtime stories part of your nightly routine.
Try to read in the same location if possible.
Cuddle while you read. It helps you to bond.
Toddlers love reading the same books over and over, which is appropriate for their developmental level.
Often they will only want to read the pictures – which is part of the pre-reading strategies they need to learn.
They will sometimes want to go back a page or two, or even back to the beginning of the book when you’re only half way through the story. Try not to get frustrated as this is also age appropriate and is perfectly fine.
NEVER take storytime away as punishment or as a form of discipline. You don’t want to sabotage your own efforts to turn your child into a lifelong reader.
Aim to keep reading time relaxed, calming, positive and enjoyable.
Some adults take to reading aloud like a duck to water. However, there are those individuals that feel as awkward as a fish out of water, especially when reading in front of other adults. Here are some pointers to help you get on.
In the video clip below Michael Rosen, an English children’s novelist, poet, and author, gives some wonderful tips on how to engage your child more while reading.
Richard at AbeBooks.com gives us fantastic tips for reading to children.
Are you up to the challenge of reading nightly bedtime stories?
To explore working with Lianne in Johannesburg (Fourways, Strathavon & Bordeaux South), contact her to find out how she can meet your needs.