If you have a bookcase at home full of books, then you ultimately have a treasure!
If you place the children’s books on the lower shelves, then they have immediate treasures, too.
Just like they learn how to play with toys, that is how they can learn to read books.
I have been placing books in close access of my children since they were born.
– But they cannot read, Eugenia. What were you thinking?
– They cannot speak when they are babies either, yet we give them toy telephones. They cannot play, catch or kick, yet we buy them soft colourful balls. In the same manner, I strongly felt that easy access to books – soft books initially, then board books and then gradually to paper books – can turn reading into something as natural as playing. And so far with Maggie the results are more than evident. And Nicholas is following. Moreover, having Maggie as his guide he too spends some time flipping through books, looking at pictures, some pages more intensely than others. His eyes see words that he cannot read but it all becomes a familiar sight to him. Just like with Maggie.
It might start off with a thirty-second glance, then become a three-minute action. Further on it becomes a twenty-minute activity and before you know it, books are as loved as toys.
We did exactly the same at our wonderful former English school in Ioannina, Greece; The Loras English Academy. Our vast bookcase was our main attraction and ultimate joy for teachers, parents and students.
(The Loras English Academy is a Feat of its own. Sooner or later I will have to write about it… I think I am better now; I am almost ready to do so.)
Some children seemed like they were picking out candies in a candy shop when choosing books. And some others were not as interested but at least once borrowed a book from us. A start must be made somehow.
“Wow, how many books you have!”, said a mother of two children who were our students. “Yes, we are very lucky to have so many and we try to expose the children to them as much as we can. I do the same at home with Maggie. Just place the books close to them and they will come to love them”, I went on enthusiastically as usual. “No, no, it depends on the child. It would be a waste of time and money if I did that with my children”.
And all of sudden… disappointment “fell kerplunk on Eugenia’s head”. And I so wanted to tell her, “Well if you have not tried it, why do you make guesses, to their disadvantage?” But I didn’t. So, I just decided to do my best through the books in our school and at some point, hopefully, the children themselves would ask their parents to also quench their thirst for books.
Encyclopedias – for children and adults, dictionaries – simple, specialized and picture-based, thesauruses, course books, grammar books, readers – fictional and factual, story books, audio and not…we have invested in. Slowly, progressively, we almost had it all.
The more we bought, the happier we got!
My absolute favourites, though, are audio story books. And we have noticed at home but throughout our career that they are the most popular with children. They are so educationally fun that I actually teach a five-year-old boy this year, who wants to go through the full two-hour session we have, sometimes, only with these storybooks.
Both my children are very fond of them too and we have the whole series of some at home. Readily available for them. Tapes, CDs and books. All at hand.
“Come on Nicholas! Let’s listen to storybooks!” says Maggie to her brother just as if doing another playful activity.
My Top 5 Super Recommendations (in order of personal and professional preference):
- Express Publishing – Audio Storytime Readers (Stages 1 – 3)
- Scholastic – Readers (several series)
- Scholastic – Audio Storybooks
- Random House – Step into Reading Series (Steps 1 – 5)
- Oxford – Start with English Readers (Grades 1 – 6)
And I cannot wait to do something like this again!
I just cannot wait!