This year marks the 20th year of the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day. This event is celebrated in many schools across America on March 2nd on Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Some schools like my sons’ school celebrated Read Across America during the whole week surrounding Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Our boys even had the opportunity to eat green eggs and ham. Students at the school where I serve as a literacy coach had the opportunity to participate in Dr. Seuss themed activities and listen to Dr. Seuss books read aloud by teachers and older students.
For a child to develop a love of reading, parents, educators, and the community must show the importance of reading throughout the year. It cannot be a one day event; reading must become part of the child’s lifestyle.
My twin sons like many multiples were born early. Although, my husband and I were worried about their overall health, we knew we wanted to begin fostering the love of reading early. Once they came home from the hospital, we read books to them as much as we could and we purchased books for them to view.
We took books everywhere; I would throw them in my bag so I could have them available whether it was for a long car ride, church service or a trip to the store. It is easy to give your child your cell phone or another piece of technology to occupy his or her time, but a book is another option and you don’t have to worry about battery drainage.
Involving Family & Friends
To include our families in our reading mission, we put on our sons’ birthday invitation a request for African American children’s books instead of toys. To add an additional challenge, we requested our family and friends to purchase different books for each of our sons.
Before our sons were born, we decided even though they are identical twins, we wanted them to be treated as other siblings who are singletons so they could be known as individuals. Typically you would not buy other siblings the exact same gift and this is why we made the request for people not to buy two of the same book.
Although diverse representation in books and media is increasing, our family members and friends shared it was hard to find books with African American characters. We were proud of their efforts and we received no duplicate books.
The saying, “Actions speak louder than words” rings true especially when it comes to children. It is important to us that our children see us and other adults reading. Whether it is my mother or my mother-in-law reading the bible, my dad reading National Geographic or the newspaper, my husband reading comics or me reading young adult novels, they are constantly around adults who take time out of their schedule to read.
When children are exposed to books and adults who enjoy reading they want to read also. Learning to read is a process, but this process can be more enjoyable when they love books.
I always tell my students (and I can see some of them rolling their eyes right now), “You can’t get better at reading without reading.” As our boys grew, we tried to provide many opportunities for them to read or for them to be exposed to literacy activities.
When they were very young, they would read the pictures and tell a story about what they believed was happening. Another activity they liked was asking each other to find something in a book.
In preschool, they began reading decodable and predictable text by themselves. They also had opportunities to bring in books and read them to their class. Now, they are reading books at their reading level with help from us as needed.
We also wanted them to know how reading could help them complete a task. When we went to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, Mississippi, we showed them how to use a map. We let them use the map to direct part of the visit.
Now when we go to the grocery store, I have them take turns checking off items on the grocery list. Which led to an interesting moment one time.
Jeremiah: Mom, I found a silent e word. Silent e jumps over the consonant and makes the vowel say its name.
Mom: That’s right.
Jeremiah: So mom, what is wine? Did you get it yet? I need to know so I can check it off the list.
Although, I did receive a few looks. I’m proud that he was able to read many words on our grocery list independently.
Good writers are avid readers. Not only do our boys love to read, they also like to create their own stories, even before they could write words. Before they learned how to write and spell words, they would draw the story and we would write the words they dictated to us underneath the pictures.
The best part of fostering a love of reading is the quality time we all get to spend together. Reading stories and discussing what happened in them has been a great way to learn our children’s perspective. We also have learned what they are interested in and what they would like to learn.
They love the library and they love reading and we love watching them grow and learn.