The love for books
Most of us know that children enjoy story times, reading books is an essential part of our curriculum and we practitioners are aware of the importance it has not only to their language skills but also to their social and emotional development. What would be recommendable to do as parents? Are there some tips that parents can follow to inspire the love for books in children?
First, let's talk about the natural curiosity children have for books. If we observe toddlers, they certainly want books that feel good, look interesting, have great images, and even sound or sensory-stimulating things (peek-a-book, puppets, touch, or funny mirrors inside). The more interactive a book for a toddler, the better. And if it's a book about something of interest to them, whether it's going to space or zoo animals, that's the best. On the other hand, the actual act of reading to your child is a huge part of why they love books so much. When you read with and to your children, you're creating lasting memories and connections with them. Children sense the bond that the book creates with the adults and it has a big part in their fascination for story times, book corners and books.
“Children absorb language, unconsciously of course, in a grammatical way. Whilst they remain apparently inert for a long time, all of a sudden, within about two years and three months, they reveal a phenomenon, the explosion of a language already wholly formed” Maria Montessori
As the children grow up in their interest in finding out how things work, and gaining competence and control over themself and their environment, parents and practitioners should come out with proper books, that are aligned with the child´s interests. In that sense, Maria Montessori pointed out the importance of choosing books based on reality. Montessori identified what she called the Absorbent Mind in the first plane of development, between birth to age six when children absorb information from the world around them. Children in this developmental phase benefit from learning about real things rather than fantasy. With a strong grounding in reality, knowledge and creativity flourish. As Montessori said in her 1946 London Lectures, children “acquire knowledge through experience in the environment.” It is only in the second plane of development, after the age of six, that children’s brains become capable of understanding fantasy. It is for that reason that we, Montessorians, would recommend selecting books showing the world around the children: people, places, animals, and natural environments. Here I suggest a few more essential things we need to consider as we choose books:
· Choose books that are beautifully illustrated.
Illustrations can ignite curiosity, enhance creativity, and provide opportunities for extended conversation-enhancing vocabulary and language development. Illustrations should be realistic and based on the world. This does not mean illustrations have to be real. Drawings can be used, but ensure they are realistic. A fish should be shown with fins and not arms, for example.
· Choose age-appropriate books.
Books that are possibly too difficult or too easy may cause children to lose interest and discourage learning.
· A book’s format is also important:
does it have pull-out pages or flaps, and are they age-appropriate and practical? Ask yourself if your children can use them as intended.
· And lastly, choose books that are related to your children’s interests.
They are natural and curious learners with a great drive for independence. By selecting books based on their interests, we honour our children by choosing books that support their learning and create interest and a deeper appreciation for the world around them.
These suggestions can help parents to be aware when it comes to choosing the appropriate books, therefore they will inspire a love for books in children. But there are more essential things practitioners and parents should know when reading a book for children, here are some tips:
· Setting a time and a space for reading.
Children respond better to setting activities, based on routines, as they love order, and need to know things that happen at certain times of the day. That will help with their concentration skills and they will also associate the habit of reading with a specific place in the house in which that occurs. Setting a fixed time and place for reading will make it a special event in the routine of the children's day, and it will help in understanding the importance of habits.
· Be a performer!
Acting out stories and scenarios from texts is a great way to make reading active and enjoyable. It also helps children’s reading comprehension and encourages empathy. Acting out helps develop fluency, as children learn to regulate their voices, and think about intonation and sentence stress. Here are some tips that can help you to be a great performer:
· vary the volume, pitch and tempo of your voice (enunciate clearly and exaggerate expression)
· use your face, body and gestures (let your body speak)
· make your body and face respond to the tale
· have a clear focus and maintain concentration
· maintain engaging eye contact with the children
· create a charismatic presence (make the children believe in you)
· use different, exaggerated character voices
· use your space/ be dynamic
· remember to pace yourself
· always remember to regain your style as a narrator
· use silence and pauses to add dramatic effect
· Encourage participation
Give your children the opportunity to express what they feel and think about the story. Ask them open-ended questions about the story, pointing out spicy words or words that are unfamiliar.
· Stories come into life
Stories are great opportunities to enhance creativity. There are many ways to link the story with activities that promote the children´s interest in creation. Would it be nice to make props? Or perform a song, act part of a story or maybe dress up like the main character! There are endless choices and children love to bring stories to life. This is when they feel part of it and they can express their most appreciation for what books bring into their life.
I believe there are many more ideas and tips for practitioners and parents to inspire their love for books. Needless to say, the importance that books have in the story of human beings and the innate love the children have for stories, I would just mention we are, as adults, the most responsible people to keep and preserve the respect and bond the children can find towards books.
Leonardo is another big gem of Little Gems Montessori. He truly shares his love for books with the children including in his native language which is Spanish. A book offers so much to both big and small – excitement, thought, laughter, discussion and knowledge just to name a few. Keep reading real books to your children. They truly are a joy!