Four reasons we need to read to our kids

February 25, 2010 4:22:22 PM PST
Why reading to children is so important.


  1. Develop Shared Values.
    The best children's books convey a strong sense of what the author feels about the world and about our moral responsibility to it, in a way that appears almost invisible. Literature is a moral compass for goodness in the most sweeping sense: it includes looking at human frailties in the face and finding the courage to deal with them. It is much easier to talk with your child about some of these issues in the context of a powerful story, through a character who comes to life on the page, whether it be through the eyes of a frog (Frog and Toad) or through the eyes of a badger (Bedtime for Frances).

  2. To fall in love with language.
    Children are fascinated by how things are made, how things fit together. A sentence is the perfect unit to explore together. It is a magical construction that conveys ideas and emotions. Rhythm, grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation all contribute to the architecture of magical language. By reading aloud, you are passing on those rhythms and those nuances of language.

  3. Build Comprehension.
    We can "practice" strategic reading when we read aloud together. Great readers ask questions as they read. Great readers make predictions. Great readers visualize scenes as they read. They use what they already know to construct new understandings. By stopping to think together, by managing hard parts of understanding together, you are modeling the joyful work your child will also always need to do on his own. Reading aloud will help your children learn long after they can read independently. As your child makes her first forays out into the world of reading independence, she still needs to "see" a reader read: what do we all do to comprehend and understand? Great readers pause to thing about their reading; they reread parts that felt hard; they make connections with the other texts they have read. The read-aloud makes this process visible--your child will use what she learns from watching you when you read aloud to her.

  4. Learn the Power of Story.
    All of humanity loves a story. We tell each other our sorrows, our joys through stories. We tell history through stories. The news itself is simply a composition of people's stories. We reach out across time and space and culture to one another through the telling of story. After the earthquake in Haiti, the hurricane in New Orleans, or the fall of the World Trade Towers in New York City, people across the world came together to help because of the individual stories of others. Every compelling story has a few key elements: characters moving through a plot structured by conflict, a turning point, and a resolution. Through books, children begin to feel the power of many stories, and also begin to reach for the power of telling their own tales. Their stories matter too.

What To Read When: The Books and Stories To Read with Your Child--And All The Best Times To Read Them
By Pam Allyn

Pam Allyn is the Founder of and the visionary behind WORLD READ ALOUD DAY. This book is a wonderful resource for parents who love to read to their children. With over half a million children's books in print, parents can have a tough time knowing what to choose for a story that will resonate with their child at the right time. What sets WHAT TO READ WHEN apart most is the unique annotated list of more than three hundred titles addressing powerful childhood themes that range from friendship to thankfulness, courage, separation, spirituality, and more. The first two chapters of the book talk about the reasons why reading aloud is so good for your child and how to do it most effectively. In addition, this book offers an indispensable "Reader's Ladder" section, with book recommendations for children at every age from birth to ten years.

All the World
By Liz Garton Scanlon (Author), Marla Frazee (Illustrator)

Charming illustrations and lyrical rhyming couplets speak volumes in celebration of the world and humankind, combining to create a lovely book that will be appreciated by a wide audience. The pictures follow a multicultural family from a summer morning on the beach through a busy day and night. A boy, his younger sister, and their parents experience a farmer's market, a lakeside pavilion, a soaking rain, a warm meal in a cozy café, a gathering of musical kin, and a quiet night at home.

And to Think That We Thought That We'd Never Be Friends
By Mary Ann Hoberman (Author), Kevin Hawkes (Illustrator)

When a brother and sister start fighting over croquet one day, it seems as though they'll never stop. Then their little sister happens by and offers them soda pop if they'll make up. Since they're thirsty and tired, this sounds like a pretty good idea. And just like that, the fight is over. Later, when new neighbors begin to make a huge racket with all their musical instruments, the family is all set for another fight. But the noisy neighbors invite the family to join in, and soon the biggest, loudest, most joyful parade ever is underway. Eventually the whole world is united in a giant parade of peace and friendship.

All in a Day
By Cynthia Rylant (Author), Nikki McClure (Illustrator)

This picture-book poem discusses the many things that can be done in a day: plant a seed, make a wish, live a life. Astonishingly detailed, the artwork evokes the feel of classic 1940s and '50s picture books. The large spreads show a boy exploring nature on his family's farm, napping in a hammock with his mother, and hiking in the woods with his father. They successfully capture the magical childhood sense that a day can go on forever.

The Curious Garden
By Peter Brown

While out exploring one day, a little boy named Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world. This is an enchanting tale with environmental themes and breathtaking illustrations that become more vibrant as the garden blooms. Red-headed Liam can also be spotted on every page, adding a clever seek-and-find element to this captivating picture book.


March 3, 2010
6:00 - 7:00 PM

Books, Inc. Laurel Village
3515 California Street

Join Writers and Literary Mamas, Caroline Grant, Lisa Harper, and Nicki Richesin in a bedtime story reading for kids of all ages. We'll be reading some new titles, including Cynthia Rylant's All in a Day; Peter Brown's The Curious Garden; and Liz Garton Scanlon's All the World, plus some new favorites! Bring the kids in their pajamas for a fun evening outing.

Caroline Grant is the Editor in Chief of Literary Mama and co-editor of the anthology Mama, PhD: Women Write About Motherhood and Academic Life (Rutgers University Press, 2008). Her essays about mothering have been published in a variety of journals and anthologies. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two sons, a life she writes about on her blogs, Food for Thought and Learning to Eat.