Becoming a Bookworm
Do you remember getting excited about summer reading programs at the library? Or how about earning stickers for your big "Book It!" pin to cash in for a personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut? (I swear, I get giddy when I think about Book It!)
I lived for those moments! I wave my nerd flag proudly to this day and relish in our weekly trips to our public libraries. (Shout out to the OC Public Library System for having so many branches to visit and a vast selection of children's books!)
I have always had a love of the written word. From early on, I remember my mother reading stories to me at night -- I know she must have read picture books with rhyming phrases like the ones I read to my eldest now, but I distinctly recall the novels we moved onto as I got older and could sound out words on my own. The "Little House" series, "Johnny Tremain" (the scene where he injures his hand still haunts me), and so many more.
And I'd learn to recite nonsensical, yet quite lengthy poems when visiting my grandfather. I took pride that I could remember such crazy rhyming couplets, as I watched his smiling face while I droned on and on. (I only wish I could remember them today!)
The research is clear -- the more a child is exposed to books, the greater the chance that the child will develop a rich vocabulary, be a good listener, and increase his/her aptitude to become a lifelong learner with some amazing skills to carry forward well past the baby, toddler, and elementary school years. Dominic Massaro, a professor at UC Santa Cruz, says, "Reading aloud is the best way to help children develop word mastery and grammatical understanding, which form the basis for learning how to read."
The Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics published a study that addresses the "million word gap," citing astounding differences in reading development. And the American Psychological Association notes that "it takes more than nightly reading to foster a child's future reading success. Parents, teachers and others who read to children must also engage young children with lively, enthusiastic recitations that bring characters and plots to life, and pose open-ended questions that spark children's comprehension, vocabulary and interest. Such reading-aloud extras, say researchers, are as important as regular teeth-brushing for children ages 4 and 5 because they can be the difference between a child who picks up reading easily and one who struggles when he or she reaches kindergarten."
One initiative that I jumped at the chance to participate in is the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program.
Not to boast, but my kiddo probably reached this goal sometime at the end of preschool last year (with book borrowing at 20 books per week, with an increase of 30-45 books per week in the summer, it's easy to see how it could add up). But I didn't start physically recording our books until she began TK this year. (Total mom fail!)
The program is super simple! And you can count repeat books too! (Being the nerd and overachiever I am, I made it a personal goal not to count repeats, which made the book log part a bit more lengthy than it would have been if I'd just said, "yep, we read "Mustache Baby" 10 times and "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" 50 times.")
You can print out reading logs, milestone certificates, and a program completion certificate directly from the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten website. But I'd also recommend checking in with your local library to see if they have their own program going. I love this little ad that the Yonkers Public Library did for their program!
The branch we went to had the kids write their names on various themed shapes that were displayed on a humongous "Very Hungry Caterpillar" on the wall (each segment got a separate signed shape to mark a set of 100 books read), with the final picture -- for the 1,000th book read -- being a butterfly that they could color in and attach to the wall. Oh, and the library gives out milestone stickers too! (Who doesn't love stickers?!?)
I am so proud of my little bookworm in training! To see how she lights up when I tell her we need to go to the library to get new books thrills me. And now she's beginning to peruse the shelves and pick out books herself, which is super exciting.