People often ask why I chapter read. After all, many of the children in my classroom are are three-years-old. When we chapter read, the children don’t have an image from a picture book. They have to make the pictures in their head. That requires language development. The more they hear, the more they learn. Even the youngest children benefit enormously. For example, they may not ‘get’ the humor of the goose repeating everything three times in Charlotte’s Web, but they are still getting a huge dose of language. And, that language is sparking their imagination. No pictures; just words pouring into eager, young minds and creating their own images.
I read picture books as well, at least twice a day. That’s a given! As in chapter books, we stop to ask questions. That’s how we learn. Remember the five W’s and the H? Who, what, where, when, why and how? Those are the most important questions, because they are the foundation for stimulating language. We stop our reading all the time to ask these questions. When I read Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky, it takes forty minutes to get through the book. Really! I ask, “How did he get in and out of the garden?” “This does not look like my house; does it look like yours?” “Where is this place?” “How did Rapunzel get into the tower?” “How was the tower built?” Questions prompt so much interest and dialogue, not to mention imagination.
Fairy tales seem to spark the most conversation. It’s no wonder that Jack and the Beanstalk, and The Three Billy Goats Gruff are consistently books that bring words to life, and turn a magical golden key to open imagination. The world becomes an ocean and children sail with abandon.
Our conversations during chapter reading are often powerful. Once when we read Doctor Dolittle’s Journey, a sequel to The Story of Doctor Dolittle, a child asked, “Are Indians bad?”. What an opportunity that question created to talk about acceptance and diversity. The classroom conversation felt intimate. It’s not easy for a child to ask a sensitive question in front of the whole class. Somehow, in the middle of reading aloud a good book, questions feel open, and we talk about everything.
Learning can happen unexpectedly, and reading aloud is often the catalyst. Children don’t need to sit and listen to a book in silence. Asking questions is a good thing!
Let me say it again: reading aloud is the gift of language, and language is the most important element in a child’s development and success in school. Wow! The number of words a child knows can be directly attributed to his or her success in school; not just in English, but in Math and Science as well. Perhaps these are the most important words a parent can hear. Reading aloud is a strong part of my classroom curriculum, and children love it! The more you read aloud at home increases your child’s development! The biggest bonus is bonding together. Nothing beats snuggling with Mom or Dad, one-on-one, reading a book. Life is good!