New Book Shows Why, How, What to Read to Kids

(originally posted on Non-Toxic Kids)

Reading aloud to our children is one of the most important things we can do as parents. The reasons to read aloud to your child every day are plentiful, both academically and emotionally. This summer, I attended a teaching conference and learned some sobering statistics:

*A child in a family on welfare hears 3 million words a year

*A child in a working class family hears twice that: 6 million a year

*A child in a professional family hears 11 millions words a year (Academic Language, Academic Literacy by Eli R. Johnson)

Of course this varies by family, and there are many exceptions. But it is clear that the achievement gap begins early, and widens. As a teacher, I have been making sure my students read at least 30 minutes a day, and I infuse everything we do with language play, rich vocabulary, and a love of reading and writing.

And I am always looking for good books to read with my 3 and 5 year old girls. So, I jumped at the chance to review Pam Allyn's new book: What to Read When.

    Oh, how glad I am that I did. This book is a guide you will use for your son or daughter's entire childhood. It is not only a guide for why and how to read aloud to your child, it gives you ideas for how to help stimulate quality discussions with your child about literature, and it explains what books are the best to read at every age.

    Let me back up!

    The book organized in three parts. Part one powerfully explains why we must read aloud to our children, how to help your child become a lifelong reader, answers frequently asked questions, and shares landmark books.

    This section is passionate, empowering, and inspiring. The love Pam feels for children, parents and reading is striking. She shares a deep understanding of the developmental stages of childhood and reading. Her words speak right at the core of how reading and parenting are entwined-- and how all of us can deepen and enrich this experience.

    Part two beautifully demonstrates how to read aloud to your child, using authentic and interest driven conversations to help children make connections, visualize, form opinions, and explore emotions. I've been teaching for 11 years, and I found this section refreshing. It gave me new ideas for how to talk (and more importantly, listen) with my children about books.

    The value of the chronological section cannot be overstated. Each age is showcased with all the developmental issues and gifts that a new age brings. Pam then lists books by category and fleshes out for us why your child might be interested in each. As a teacher, I see several books I know in each section, but many I don't. That is why I started my holiday book wish list and have been adding used books from Amazon to my cart, for later purchase. I want to have most of the books at the age my children are, and one age up.

    As if the above wasn't helpful, inspiring, or motivating enough, the last section, part 3, shares fifty themes: all the books for what matters most.  With topics like Overcoming Adversity, A New Baby, Death, Adoption, Loving History, Art, Music, Science, Sports-- you can see how this could fit in with any challenges or interests your children are having.

    This book is a gift to parents and teachers. Pam Allyn has written a book that should be given away at all hospitals when you have a baby (and delivered by midwives at home births). In it, you have all the tools you need to discover the benefits of reading to your child, how to do it, and what to read when. All you need to do is add books (think used bookstores and your library) and a child (or several!).

    Childhood is terrifyingly short. I must remember, even when my eyes are bleary, my voice weary from teaching, the gift of time reading, cuddled up with my girls, is fleeting treasure.

    Thank you, Pam!

    *FCC guidelines:  I received a review copy of this book.  This post is my independent opinion. 


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