Reading to kids at early age helps development
BY NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Monday, March 04, 2013
3/04/13 at 8:50 AM
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Lila Haro's eyes flitted from librarian Lin Arnett's face to the pages of the book Arnett was reading.
Occasionally, Lila would make the sounds or gestures that Arnett asked her to make. She "cheeped" along with the chicks in one story and pointed to her knees and toes as Arnett sang from another.
But for the majority of the 20-minute storytime at Central Library last week, the 20-month-old walked around the corner of the library where the storytime was being held. She fidgeted with her name tag, toddled up to other attendees and sat in Arnett's rocking chair.
The next group of kids that Arnett read to was more attentive. The 3- to 5-year-olds answered questions she asked, sang along and looked closely at the pictures she showed them.
But reading to kids younger than 2 is just as important as reading to preschool-age children, parents and librarians said. Just don't expect that both age groups will get the same thing out of it.
For the young visitors, making storytime a fun experience is what's important.
"Our goal really isn't to be didactic and teach," said Arnett, who's been with the library system for more than 30 years.
But the repetition allows children to "learn by osmosis," she said.
Melanie Dewey, Lila's grandmother, brings her to storytime every week.
Dewey, who was a kindergarten teacher for more than 20 years, said she knows that reading to kids when they are young is important. She and Lila's parents read to her every day.
"I do know it works because her vocabulary is phenomenal," she said.
University of Tulsa education professor Diane Beals said reading to young children - those too young to understand what you're saying - is a way for kids to receive warm and responsive interaction from adults, which is important.
"The purpose of reading to little kids isn't so much that they learn the words," said Beals, who specializes in language and literacy development. "With the really young kids, it is just to enjoy the experience around books and people ... and making a connection with parents."
The eye contact, physical closeness and focused attention that happens when reading helps create that bond, she said.
But as kids get older, and with repeated readings, they begin to pick up on things.
"Kids start out thinking that the pictures are the story," Beals said. "Then they start to figure out, with repeated readings of the same books, that those things down there match what Mommy says every time or what Daddy says every time - that there's a connection between those pictures and those squiggles on the page."
Beals says there is definitely a connection between reading and oral language development.
"You're talking to the child and they're talking back, and they're learning what those pictures are on the page and they're starting to name things," she said.
Lenore St. John, children's services coordinator at the Tulsa City-County Library, stresses to parents that they should make reading fun. If infants want to taste the thick, cardboard books you're reading to them, let them.
Simply exposing children to books shows them how books are held, allows them to get used to the printed word and gives them chronological awareness, St. John said.
Cari Adams has been reading to her son, Grey Adams, since before he turned 1. She's also been taking him to library storytimes since then.
Now 3, Grey is much more attentive to the stories. Adams said reading to him has expanded his vocabulary and is good for his imagination. The questions that the librarian asks as she reads to the kids also helps with problem-solving skills, Adams said.
St. John said early years are a crucial time for brain development, and reading to your child during those years will help prepare them to read on their own later.
But Beals said it is not only reading to your child that is important, but also reading around your child.
"Kids get interested in whatever their parents are interested in," she said. "So if they see Mom and Dad reading, that puts it in their head that that's what grown-ups do."
Seeing parents read also makes children more likely to grow up thinking that reading is a natural activity, not a chore that has to be done for school, Beals said.
And Beals reminds parents that the more kids read, the better they are at it.
"Kids who read well are kids who read a lot."
Books to build literacy skills
Storytimes at the library focus on five literacy skills: talking, singing, reading, writing and playing.
Lenore St. John, children's services coordinator at the Tulsa City-County Library, offered the following suggestions for books that can help parents develop these skills in their children.
"Truck," by Donald Crews (ages 0-3)
"Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes," by Eric Litwin (ages 3-5)
"You Are My Sunshine," by Jimmie Davis (ages 0-2)
"Miss Mary Mack," by Mary Ann Hoberman (ages 3-5)
"Black on White," by Tana Hoban (ages 0-1)
"Otis," by Loren Long (ages 3-5)
"Baby's Shapes," by Karen Kats (ages 0-2)
"I Stink!" by Kate McMullan (ages 2-5)
"From Head to Toe," by Eric Carle (ages 1-5)
"I Spy," series by Jean Marzollo (ages 3-5)
Keeping kids interested in reading
Diane Beals, a professor of education at the University of Tulsa who specializes in language and literacy development, offered some tips on maintaining a child's interest in reading as they get older.
Continue to read aloud to children even after they are old enough to read to themselves. This helps kids for whom reading is a "slow and laborious" process focus on the story rather than just on the words.
Have a "book night" every week or two, taking your child or children to a bookstore and buying them a book or magazine of their choice. Then enjoy some hot chocolate.
Around the holidays, bring out seasonal family favorites.
Visit libraries and book fairs often.
Pass a book around, having each family member take a turn reading a passage.
Read poetry aloud to children.
Let kids listen to audio books and follow along.
For kids who don't like books, consider magazines or comic strips.
Original Print Headline: Never too young to read
Nour Habib 918-581-8369
Grey Adams, 3, points to pictures as librarian Lin Arnett reads during a storytime last week at the Central Library. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Lin Arnett, children's department library associate, reads to 20-month-old Lila Haro during a My First Storytime last week at the Central Library. Reading to kids younger than 2 is important in helping develop vocabulary, experts say. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Grey Adams, 3, points to pictures as children's library associate Lin Arnett reads during a My First Storytime session at the Central Library. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World