Thursday, November 06, 2008

Books are Yummy!

I’ve often felt like I should talk to Buster more when snuggled up, or at least say something more meaningful than “Cutie, cutie, cute, cute!” After attending an educational panel last weekend, I’m going to make a greater effort.

Leapfrog sponsored a session for the Silicon Valley mom bloggers (well documented by Beth here) that could easily have been a product-push, but was instead a discussion by an education researcher from Berkeley, teachers among us, and the other moms. I was an early reader and have always enjoyed books, but it was incredibly valuable to get these new insights and reminders now that I have my own children.

Here are some highlights– not to be pedantic, but so that I remember it even when I’m sleepy!

Dr. Cunningham talked about the importance of high exposure to language at an early age. Reading out loud, especially poetry or nursery rhymes, helps children learn how language is constructed, how to play with it, and start building vocabulary.

In kindergarten and first grade, the emphasis is on phonics – sounding out words. It isn’t until third grade, when their books become dramatically more advanced, that vocabulary splits the haves and have-nots. The kids who have had lots of exposure to text already know the longer and more complicated words. The others are stuck trying to sound out things they don’t understand, and then they stop reading. Since avid readers can trump even those who are ‘smarter’ according to her university research, reading skills provide a huge advantage.

So even when kids can already read by themselves, it’s still important to read out loud or listen to story CDs or DVDs and ask them questions about what they’ve heard. The books should be a year or two ahead of what they can read solo, both advancing their vocabularies with “rare and unusual words” that don’t come up in regular speech and giving them a chance to ask parents about topics that come up.

We’ve decided to institute a regular family reading time. I realized that Q-ster never sees us read, since we relax and read after his bedtime. This week, we all sat together with our own books and read, Q-ster looking at pictures and Buster chomping on what we call his “chewy book” for teethers. We’re also reading out loud more to both boys. All the educators in the room agreed that the most important thing to children’s success was parental involvement.

Leapfrog gave us toys to match the ages of attendees’ kids, and we opened up the Tag Reading System for Q-ster tonight. He loved it. How much? Two complete hours of non-Star Wars entertainment tonight. That my friends, is no easy feat.

Thanks, Leapfrog and SV Mom Blogs!


Leeanthro said...

Our Chicago party was fun, but two parents turned the discussion to the Waldorf method and Montessori (i.e., no technology). Looks like you had a better conversation at your meeting.

We love the Tag, too!

And I'm with you, I barely get a chance to read for myself when the kids are awake, but I always hear that kids emulate you so you should show them that you enjoy reading, not just read to them.

Mayberry said...

Two hours!! I am very impressed.

When Jo was a tiny baby, I used to read her Shel Silverstein poems because I didn't know what else to do with her!

K goose blog said...

This is really cute. We have been wondering what we should do at home to help with reading outside of reading books together.

kittenpie said...

In fact, children of higher socioeconomic status hear vastly more words by the time they reach school, and this may be the single most important indicator of future academic success. Pretty amazing.