Passing on my love of books to my children. I have always loved books. I used to spend hours reading as a child. I loved having the library within walking distance from my house, which meant that I was able to go and select lots of books and bring them home and read in my bedroom or the garden to my heart's content. It was mostly my favourite hobby aside from the playing the piano. I remember my favourite books being those by Enid Blyton The Faraway tree, I would read way into the night by moonlight as I just could not stop reading them, I also loved books by Jaqueline Wilson, The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo. I remember when we had had brand news books delivered to the school library and it was my turn to go and choose a book. It was 1997. I looked up the year on google as it was the year that J.K Rowlings first book Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone came out. I remember taking it home and just reading the first chapter I was absolutely mesmerised. I remember telling everyone you have to read this book it's amazing, no one listened for a while and I was excited to wait for the author's new book that would come out each year in the series. I knew long before I had the opportunity to become a parent that I would encourage a love of stories and books within my children. So as early as when I became pregnant I remember purchasing various children's books. The first one I purchased was the classic The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. I can see this book sitting lovingly on many bookshelves over the world. I would read stories to my bump and when my Son was born I would just read books to him. Every birthday and Christmas I would gift books to him. His love of books grew because we shared stories together every day. I love to read lots of different types of books. I read a lot of books about child development and education to learn how to support my son and how I can support myself as a parent and how I can also support my community. The more I read and observed my Son, the more I realised how important it was to foster a love of stories and books before teaching reading. If children are taught to read too early (by too early I mean they are not yet ready developmentally, physically, emotionally) it can sadly have a detrimental effect on their love of books as they can be put off unnecessarily when reading becomes something they are required to do as opposed to doing it because they love it. I think this is a really important point. It was one of the reasons I chose to use a self-directed, bespoke education to suit the needs of my growing child and following what he is ready for, rather than the School environment dictating what comes next and when that should be done and by when. There's a whole blog post right there really, so I'll leave that one for another day. Let's do all we can to foster a huge love of stories by using the time we read books with our children as a positive, enjoyable and loving experience where children can feel safe in our arms, snuggled up and remembering how they felt in that environment that will last long beyond childhood. I knew I was doing something right when I asked my Son just the other morning; " What is your favourite way to spend time with Mummy? " His answer; " Doing nothing, and reading books cuddled up."
5 Reasons to enjoy reading books with your children. 1. Connect Reading books with your children allows you to spend quality time with your children. We love books snuggled up on the couch with a chunky blanket with the log burner roaring, in the morning when we have our morning time over breakfast with a candle over a pile of books, or in the garden, we put out a big patchwork blanket and some pillows and we will sit outside with some snacks or an ice lolly and enjoy the nature surrounding us whilst I read books. At bedtimes we will snuggle up in my bed with loads of pillows and blankets, sometimes with a hot ribena and a chapter book. Something we did recently was to take a chapter book and a blanket to the forest when we went for a walk, and when we had a little rest in the heart of the wood we created a snug little space at the foot of the tree and just sat and watched the birds and I read the book. My hope is that these experiences that we have created in our home and outdoors surrounding stories and books will form a deep connection with the relationships we have created with each other and with stories and books. There is just something about a little one sitting on your knee enjoying a book. Let's not forget the joy that these connections bring to our children. Make this connection a priority in your home. 2. Improve Memory From the beginning of time stories were told orally by our ancestors around fires and passed down to people through orally speaking before we could make stories into physical books. Stories and Rhymes help children to form memory. When children are learning new skills they will repeat them over and over and over again until they have mastered it. Which will explain why they will bring you the same book and want you to read it over and over. It does have a purpose though for the child's development and memory. Children remember stories from memory long before they start to read. I particularly enjoy the Julia Donaldson books as they are enjoyable for adults and children, you start to notice with the use of rhyming how children can fill in the spaces which they get a lot of joy in and feel like they are also taking part in the experience. More than anything children love the feeling of being read to. How amazing are our brains and what they can do? Our children love to imitate us as this is how they learn. They soak up everything that is around them. With this being said choose beautiful books with beautiful language that will be enjoyable for them. It would be much more valuable for them to remember things that are a good source of quality material.
3. Develop and expand language skills Rudolf Steiner offered the idea that; "Children should hear beautiful language with clear pictures so that the rhythms of poetry and the beautiful sounds of a native tongue could pour over the child and call out a deep love of the language of birth." Reading a variety of books to your children will help them to develop lots of new vocabulary and to expand their language skills and knowledge of the world around them. Even if they don't understand all the words they will start to understand the meaning of words as they grow, so having all these beautiful stories read to them, beautiful quality illustrations to look at, exploring poetry books, and having access to beautiful language surrounding various topics will support them in their development and understanding of the world around them. Books expose many new words to children. Reading books with lots of repetition and rhyme that have a flow to them will also be very enjoyable and teach them the patterns and sounds in the language they will speak. Also if you are a bilingual family, reading books in different languages you will help them to absorb more vocabulary and language in more than one language supporting greater language heights within your children's skills. All these amazing benefits from reading books allow your children to be great communicators in the world that we live in through developing their language skills. All through enjoying reading a selection of various books. I still remember reading Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows with my son before he was 4 years old. We read one chapter each day. Even though he didn't understand a lot of the words he listened intently and now and then asked questions about what I had read to make sense of what he understood by the language I was using. I must admit I found it quite a hard book to read as there is a lot of language that we don't use on a day to day basis. So I found it interesting that he wanted me to continue reading it. So don't worry about reading specifically appropriate books. So long as they are not too far out and appropriate in terms of what is being discussed within the story. For example Beatrix Potters Peter rabbit has lots of beautiful language but would be suitable for younger children to grow into.
4. Enhances Imagination The famous quote comes to mind here by Albert Einstein; "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world." When you pick up a really good storybook and read it and get completely absorbed in it, we can imagine our own pictures and use our own imagination. One of the most important and most beautiful things our children are born with is a bountiful and beautiful access to the imagination. I believe that this imagination and creativity is our greatest gift as human beings. More than ever I believe that giving your children plenty of time and space to use their imagination is one of the best things you will ever do and never regret. Curling up often with a book and creating cosy spaces for snuggling up with books where children can rest and just enjoy looking at their books before they can read will allow them to enjoy that quiet time absorbed in picture form. They may even pick books up and remember some words or rhymes to the story and recite or sing them. You may also see them acting out the stories you read them within their play. All the language will also come to play in their imagination too as you observe their play you will notice how they are making sense of this and from what they are experiencing within how they speak and act in their everyday lives. 5. Discover other cultures and parts of the world Reading Stories from all over the world can help children to learn about how other countries, cultures and people live in various ways around the world. Stories are a great way to discover things that you didn't know such as how people celebrate, such as what festivals people celebrate and why, what types of food do they eat, what clothing do they wear, what do they do for fun, what types of things do they do daily. As human beings we are all connected by the web of life but we all live our lives a little bit differently. It can be really interesting for children to learn about other languages and other countries and what animals live there and what their habitats consist of. All this can be learned through stories and living books. It can help children to understand more about the diversity of life and how things are connected to one another.
Lastly, we are very privileged to have access to lots of beautiful books. Whether you are lucky enough to have shelves filled with beautiful books at home or not - we can all access them for free as many as we like at our local libraries. So do make use of your local library( that is what it is there for after all!) and take trips with your children to the library and have them look through and see what interests them. Go and curl up with a good book and make reading with your children an everyday priority, for pure enjoyment. This time you spend with your children will be time that they will remember fondly beyond childhood. That my friends is something worth pouring quality time into every day. It is the time of day I treasure each and every day with my little one. Your children will treasure it dearly too. " Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything. " (anonymous)