In honor of the release date of ME WITH YOU, a picture book tailor-made for cuddling in an arm chair for a read-aloud fest, I wanted to talk a bit about reading aloud to kids. Jen Robinson at Jen Robinson’s Bookpage said this far more eloquently back in January than I could ever hope to, but it’s an important enough issue that more of us need to jump on the bandwagon. Jen called for an international initiative to encourage reading aloud to kids. How can we make this happen? I don’t know that I have the answers but I think I can echo her call and perhaps together we can all come up with some ideas.
My own three children are growing up in a household where we speak English, but a school system where they speak Portuguese. All three have learned to read "officially" in Portuguese first because of the efforts of their 4 year old kindergarten teachers. But all three have learned to read English informally because of our efforts at reading aloud to them. I would even say that we did not do enough. We did not read out loud every day. But they’ve grown to love books and words and have incredible vocabularies in English simply because they were read to. They feel at home with books and settle down easily to read a story, on their own or out loud. Perhaps they love to read the books we have in our home so much simply because they were not required to read them. It’s all been purely for pleasure, a free choice free-for-all. No homework assignments, no grammar lessons, no requirements. Their reading has allowed them to experience worlds different from their own, emotional experiences they haven’t yet gone through, and to begin to make the emotional connections they will need when they later face these or similar situations in the real world.
Not only this, but we bond as a family over literature. Mem Fox mentions this in her book, Reading Magic, in which she advocates reading out aloud daily:
"As we share the words and pictures, the ideas and viewpoints, the rhythms and rhymes, the pain and comfort, and the hopes and fears and big issues of life that we encounter together in the pages of a book, we connect through minds and hearts with our children and bond closely in a secret society associated with the books we have shared. The fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks between a child, a book, and the person reading."
Did you get that? The "fire of literacy is created by the emotional sparks . . ." It’s those positive early reading experiences, often before the child is even able to identify words on their own, that lead to a love for books and reading. It’s all about the emotional connection. And not only does reading aloud to a child foster the child’s love for books, it fosters your own emotional connection to that child too, and the child’s connection to you.
That’s what ME WITH YOU is all about. Emotional connections. I hope you’ll cozy up to your nearest loved one, be it a child or a child at heart, and read aloud for a bit today. And if you’re looking to celebrate an emotional connection, may I suggest ME WITH YOU, whose words metaphorically apply to just about any relationship you could imagine. 🙂
For a peek into the book and an adorable teddy bear tea-party, check out Jama Rattigan’s Soup of the Day post celebrating ME WITH YOU here.