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“WOW!” my squeaky voice rose. I sat next to my dad on the couch and watched him close the finished book. Nate the Great fanned out and showed many folded pages.
“Can I read next, Papa?” I pleaded and looked up at him. He turned his face to mine. His bright blue eyes creased at the edges as he smiled at me.
“What would you like to read?” he questioned.
I ran over to his big black bag full of library books in the corner. Once I pulled Pretzel out, I raced back over to the couch. After one bounce on the cushion, I settled and began to read.
“One morning in May five little…” I paused and tried to sound out the next word. “Five little…Da… da… da….”
“Dachshunds. It’s a tiny dog. Like in the picture,” he pronounced the word slowly and pointed to the picture he mentioned. Patiently, he listened to me pronounce the foreign word again and again.
I smiled, excited to know a new word. I continued to read.
Papa would read to me at least once a day. We discussed each book as he read. My fingers pointed to pictures I hadn’t seen before. I inquired about a word I had never heard. He answered all of my questions. After we read the book, he asked me questions about what happened.
“Now that we are done what can you remember?” he asked, wondering if I could recount what I just heard.
“Ummm, Pretzel married Greta and he, uhhh, helped her and saved her, and there were more puppies and uh…” Pretty soon, I compared my own dog to Pretzel.
“Kemba could have puppies too!” I exclaimed, seriously.
Papa’s eyes widened as he realized where I had taken the conversation.
“Well…” he hesitated. “Maybe you could ask Grandma and Grandpa about their dog next time you seem them.”
Thinking starts here. It starts when a child is being read to, when a child is asked questions, when a child asks questions. Every day, a young child should be read to. Not only are kids spending quality time with a parent, teacher, sibling, or some other role model, but they are learning and understanding educational values without even knowing it.
Personally, I believe that skills I use in school now, started when my dad would read to me. I analyze what a book’s metaphor represents. Questions flow from my mind about the social studies article. I guess a word’s meaning from the context of its sentence. These cognitive skills start at such an early age. Child Trends Data Bank says that children who are regularly read to at the young age of two will have a better comprehension of language and a larger vocabulary than their peers who weren’t read to. This is just one source, but look at any about childhood reading and almost all will say the same thing. The Child Trends Data Bank also states that kids will be more enthusiastic about reading on their own if their parents took the steps when they were young.
“Can you help?” a quiet boy from my mom’s kindergarten class asked me about a month ago. He held the book in his hands as high as possible. During “Free Time”, he was starting to read on his own. This is just the first step he takes toward skills he will use later in life.
The boy selected an “A, B, C” book. As he began to read, he mostly used the picture on the page to help him, instead of relying completely on me.
“Wait, wait! I wanna figure it out by myself!” he demanded and thought some more out loud. “B is for bluuueee birrrrddds,” he exaggerated and stretched the last two words. He turned the page and started on to C. Then D. Then…
“E is for… uh…. Can you help?” he paused and finally needed help.
“Well, do you know what those animals are?” I asked.
He thought for a moment. “Efalants, rights?” he mispronounced.
“Elephants! Exactly. And why do you think their cheeks are so red?”
“Mmm… maybe someone made fun of them.”
“So the elephants got embarrassed. They didn’t feel….” I searched for the words to explain. “They didn’t feel comfortable when they were made fun of. That is embarrassed.”
“Oh! Embarrassed,” he tried it out again and again.
“I don’t like when people make fun of me,” he said as he began to tell me one of his stories.
Just from a book a day, kids learn a significant amount. They grow and take in information that isn’t just from the book itself. And this starts with a father- or mother, or adult figure, taking the time to read a short picture book. Kids will begin to read on their own eventually, but it’s important that adults take that first step to begin a child’s education.
“Papa, can we go to the library tomorrow?” I begged and hoped he would say yes.
“Sure,” he responded softly. He put the third book in the library bag and checked to see that all the books were safely inside the black tote. “We are all set to get more tomorrow,” he reassured me and gave a small smirk.
I smiled and thought about the stories to come.