It’s Author Interview Thursday! I was really excited to get today’s author on the AIT hot seat when I saw the following quote she made on her blog, ‘Children might be 20% of the population but are 100% of the future.’ She is a kindergarten teacher, with years of experience in the classroom, and has witnessed the impact that reading has on children. She is a parent and author of 1 2 3 Kindergarten: Everything Your Child Needs to Learn Before Kindergarten. She is also host of a show, Learn and Play with Mrs. A, and her mission is to support parents and caregivers during children’s crucial early learning years.She says that “Gazillions of brain connections form in the early childhood years and parents can encourage even more. To support your child to be a powerful learner you don’t need to turn your house into a preschool, but your home can be a place for all kinds of fun and play that will encourage learning and development. Barbara Allisen also known as Mrs. A. is passionate about increasing the literacy levels in kids. Today, she’s going to share with us the benefits that can be achieved in reading to kids. Do join me in welcoming Mrs. A.
Barbara, why is reading books and stories to children so important?
David, thank you so much for letting me be part of your blog. In typical teacher fashion, in order to answer that, I’m going to ask a few questions. Here’s the first one.
If you had to hike a long way up a huge mountain, would you rather start right at the bottom or already part way up? I’m guessing most of us would be happy to begin farther along. Reading books and sharing stories with kids is like starting part way up. Learning to read is like that huge mountain. It will be one of the biggest learning challenges for children at school. Each time we read a book to a child is like a step along the way. Here’s some quick math to show just how many steps. It only takes a few minutes to read a child 3 or 4 books. Now, if parents do that every day, that adds up to about 25 books a week or 100 books a month. In a year, that could add up to 1,000 books or more. Children who have been read to at home have about 5,000 book-steps along the learning-to-read journey before they ever arrive at school.
Hearing those stories and looking at books makes all kinds of critical brain connections for learning to read. A child may not yet understand the words but the brain is recording them. Pathways develop in the brain for the structures of language, such as the order of words in a sentence. The mind begins to process that somehow the squiggles on a page hold meaning. That’s crucial for the learning to read challenge.
Here’s a second question. Do you think it would be easy or hard to download a library of books into a child’s brain? The good news is that it’s easy, just by reading and sharing books with kids. Babies and toddlers do not always want to sit for a whole book but we can start with a few simple pages. Big brothers and sisters can read to little ones. Older kids love to be read to as well. Adults often enjoy hearing favorite authors and writers read to them.
Bed time books work for some families as part of the nightly routine. Mornings can be a rush but creating time for some stories after breakfast can help motivate kids to get ready so they can have a cuddle and book. Instead of watching for the bus, leave a couple of minutes early so there’s time for a book. Tuck some small books in with the to-do list to share while waiting in line at the store or bank. There are even plastic books for reading in the tub. Books can be part of dessert or snack.
Are there some other benefits to reading books and sharing stories?
Listening to stories also encourages the development of listening skills. The ear learns to pick out subtle differences in sound. There’s not much to distinguish between bat and bad but that difference can be important in a story.
Lots of reading will give your child a “smart start”. This doesn’t mean that your child will know more than other kids but it gives your child two important advantages: a rich vocabulary and a faster processing speed for language. Do you remember being in school and there were some kids that always got their hands up first? Their IQs may not have been bigger, they just had faster language motors. Reading means the brain engine can run at a faster speed.
Another huge benefit is that reading books together is also a relationship activity. Sharing books together makes powerful connections in the heart as well as the brain. There’s a program that started in 2002 called Storybook Dads, for dads that are in prison. The dads are recorded reading stories. Kids are given the recordings with their dad’s voice to play over and over and over. Not only does this program support the bond between parents and families, prisoners that maintain contact with their families are up to 6 times less likely to re-offend. Storybook Dads has now expanded to Storybook Moms and beyond the UK where it started, to all over North America. The military is finding it especially important for personnel far away from home in places like Iraq and Afghanistan or the middle of the ocean.
After years of being in the classroom, I put together a book for parents and caregivers: 1 2 3 Kindergarten, Everything Your Child Needs To Learn Before Kindergarten. This year I wrote a story about a pig, a cow, a goat, and a horse that need to learn to share, called Pig Goes First. I love to tell stories and am working on a few more.
Where can people discover more about you and connect with you.
You can connect with me and see what I’m currently up to by clicking any of the links below.
Twitter: @Barbara Allisen or @123Kindergarten
Thanks for spending time with us today Mrs A. I found your insights and advice fascinating and very helpful. Who knew reading could help a child’s brain run at a faster speed? It’s also interesting how the simple act of reading helped incarcerated men less likely to offend and increased/maintained the bond they had with their families. You can grab a copy of one of Barbara’s books by clicking the link below
Barbara and I would be delighted if you could share this piece on your social media circles by clicking one of the buttons below and/or leaving a comment or question.