AND USING BOOKS WITH CHILDREN
by Julia Gabriel
When my son and daughter were little,
we had a bed-time routine of one story a night. I didn't
have any difficulty getting them to go to bed! The problem
was that they had their own ideas of what books they
wanted me to read. My carefully selected choices were
rejected whenever they wanted the same old favourite,
read over and over again. My children taught me that
they had their own needs and their own ideas about what
Now, many years later, in the Book Room at Julia Gabriel
Centre for Learning, we have adopted this child-centred
approach. We ensure that all the books in our library
are worth reading and then allow students freedom to
choose their own books, from the age of three.
Our early reading books are chosen because they are
written to be read aloud or shared. The language is
colourful and flows easily. It feels and sounds good
to read aloud. We also make sure that the story can
be maximized and extended with exciting illustrations
and plenty to talk about. Finally, the book must motivate
readers, through plot, characters, pictures or subject,
to read it so that adults want to share the book with
It is important that we don't stop reading to our children
just because they have learned to read for themselves.
For many children, reading is a slow and laborious task,
perfected slowly over time. They still enjoy being read
to, and listening to stories, well beyond their own
reading ability. So keep up the bed time (or anytime)
stories which will extend language, imagination and
awareness. I read to my children (and students) even
during their teenage years.
I don't read aloud well or know
how to tell stories." Take heart: There is no right
or wrong! Just enjoy sharing precious time together
with a book. Take your time and vary your voice with
the pace, feelings and characters in the story. Let
the words tell you what to do and you'll read well enough
for your child to enjoy listening.
Many parents find tapes and videos an easy substitute
for reading books, but a recorded voice, however accurate
or professional, doesn't respond to a child's questions
and can't talk about what's happening in the story.
And it isn't mum or dad! There's no substitute for a
caring reader and passionate lover of books.
"How do I know if it's a good book to choose?"
If it motivates you to read it and if your child wants
to read it then it's worth reading. If it is truthful,
imaginative, sensitive and enjoyable then it's worth
reading. Listen to your children: They will let you
know what they value and enjoy.
As parents we teach most by example. To encourage our
children to become readers, we need to value and use
books ourselves. If I value and include books in my
life, the message to my children is clear: Books are
important to me. If I make time to read to my children
I'm showing them that I value spending time with them,
and establishing a reading pattern, for life.
I'm grateful to my parents for reading to me as a child:
A habit that I continued with my children. So, let's
show our children the way to choose, use and value books
as our friends for life, and make a little time together,
to enjoy sharing words, ideas and books together, in
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