I’m not always the best mom when it comes to adventurous outings, or getting down on the rug and playing cars, but I would happily read to my children all day every day. I love children’s literature so much, and it is such a joy to read with my kids and watch them develop that same enthusiasm and appreciation. But it’s not just a fun thing to do. Reading to our young children is one of the most important things we can do to help them eventually learn to read. Think of all the things a young child learns when she is read to. She learns to hold a book, which way it opens, the fact that we read left to right, and top to bottom. She learns to recognize sounds and letters, she learns that she can use pictures as clues. Even older kids who have begun to read on their own benefit as they hear us model pacing, expression, and difficult vocabulary, and as we stop to discuss the story, their comprehension skills are strengthened. When I taught second grade I always emphasized to parents that the only homework necessary was reading- both by and to the child.
Of course, reading books to our young children helps them learn not only basic literacy concepts, but also the content that is in the books. That’s why, though I allow plenty of the licensed, not-great-literature-but-my-kid-loves-this-character books in our home, I try to choose lots of books that talk about shapes, colors, animals, etc.
Hands down, some of our favorite books are Baby Lit books, all based on classics, but broken down for toddlers and preschoolers. They. Are. Genius. Each one is a primer, so along with a little introduction to the great Austen characters of Pride and Prejudice, you get a little number lesson. In Don Quixote you get some Spanish words and from Treasure Island you learn several shapes. They are brilliantly illustrated- bright, colorful, and truly clever. In our house, Emma (an Emotions primer), with all of its hilarious faces, is the clear favorite. Clara, Carter, and I read it over and over, and mimic all the faces in the mirror and then laugh our heads off. And I am tickled to think that one day, when they read about Mr. Elton, they will remember their first introduction to one of the most hilarious characters of all time.