Story time is the best time of the day. Whether we're snuggled up on the couch or cozy in our pjs before bed, reading stories with my little ones is one of my favorite things to do. Everyone has a favorite book they remember from their childhood, and every day, parents and kids are discovering new classics of their own. There are many fabulous children's books out there, some of which everyone knows about and others we would have never discovered had my son not simply pulled a random book off a library shelf. I created this blog to share some of these wonderful stories with you. Think of it as a year's worth of the best children's books around, since no day should be without a great story. In the end, I hope we'll all have discovered at least a few new titles that will have made their way onto our list of family favorites. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's the little things...

Two really cool things happened this week.  To anyone else, these things might not seem all that significant, but to me, a mother and teacher, these two little moments were simply awesome.
Both of them involve my two and a half year old daughter.  As I did with her older brother, I have read to her every day since she was a newborn.  It's something I have always loved to do, and I can honestly say that few things in life make me feel happier or more content than being snuggled up with my kids reading a book.  We read at various times throughout the day, but bedtime is always my favorite.  Mostly, this is because no matter how crazy the day was or how stressful the whole bathtime/teeth brushing/pj wrangling/bed bouncing/sibling chasing/bedtime routine has been, cuddling up to read stories washes all of that away.  I've written about why I read to my children before, and these two moments I witnessed this week offer perfect examples of just how influential and meaningful our story times really are.

Here's what happened.

As she so often does, my daughter requested "Just one more story!" before bed.  We turned to the stack of board books on the little table next to our rocking chair, and she requested Sandra Boynton's Blue Hat, Green Hat.  (I strategically leave short books like this one in plain view so that we can read one more story without having it take too long.)  As I opened the book and began to read, I started to do what I always do with this story:  point to each picture as I say it out loud.  ("Blue hat, green hat, red hat, oops!")  My daughter quickly said, "No, no, I will do it!" and proceeded to point to each picture herself, at which point I would read the accompanying text.  Sounds simple enough, I know, but here is what I realized.  She pointed to each picture in the proper sequential order -- top to bottom, left to right -- without any guidance from me.  I waited to read aloud until she had pointed to the pictures, and we went through the whole story that way.  We hadn't read this particular book in a few months (I had recently found it back behind a bookcase), so I doubt she simply had it memorized from the last time we had read it.  I don't always point to the text as I read, but apparently, I do it often enough that my daughter knows to read from top to bottom and left to right.  It's a little thing, of course, but it shows that children learn some of the fundamental concepts of literacy long before they learn to read.

Yesterday, I witnessed another awesome literacy moment.  It was one of those rare occasions where I'm able to quietly listen in on what my children are doing without them knowing that I am there.  (Don't you just love that?)  My daughter was standing by her rocking chair "reading" one of her favorite books at the moment:  Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.  She got the book out of the bin next to the chair, placed it on the seat, opened it up, and began reading it aloud to herself.  As she went on, I was amazed by three things:  1) She knew the entire story, word for word, even the cute little things Pete says in the illustrations like, "It's all good!"  2)  She knew exactly when to turn the page; and 3)  She read with the same inflection and expression that I do when I read the story aloud to her.  I know she wasn't really "reading," she was reciting the book from memory, but I was amazed, nevertheless.  I wasn't surprised, but I was amazed.
Oftentimes, when we read aloud to our children, we know that they are listening.  (Sometimes, of course, they're not, in which case maybe it's better to try a different story and return to that one another time.)  But it's important to realize just how closely they are listening.  They're taking in so much more than the story line itself.  All of the things we do when we read aloud -- our expression, emotion, intonation, inflection, volume, timing -- come together to tell them the whole story in a way that simply speaking the words cannot.  In this sense, the way we read a story aloud is as important as the act of reading, itself.  And those sweet little listeners on our laps?  They are taking it all in.  Word by word, story by story.

When we read with our children, we're doing so much more than simply entertaining them with stories. We're teaching them about language, expression, grammar, diction, vocabulary and a whole host of other literacy skills in between.  Although we might not realize it, we're laying the foundation for a love of learning and setting them up to be successful readers long before we'd ever expect them to learn to "read." Those amazing little minds are learning far more than we ever intended, and that is a pretty awesome thing.


Quirky Momma said...

I love the picture of your daughter reading chica-chicka to her brother. It's one of the books my little girl likes to "read" too :)

Krista G. said...

What a great post. It is so exciting to see little ones get this literacy stuff. Of course, the more they are exposed, the faster and easier it is for them. These are definitely milestones in her journey to becoming a reader, and if you don't have any preconceived notions about what she can do, she will surprise you.

Being able to read the book all the way through, word for word, is a huge first step. Reading involves memorization, and if she has memorized the story, she then knows the words and by pointing to them as they are read, she is learning to read. There is no better way to learn to read than in the lap of someone you love.

I have seen babies and young children read amazingly well. Most of it begins as memorization, but that quickly transforms to being able to sound out new and unfamiliar words. You can see what I mean by checking out my website We have created a line of products that make learning to read fun, easy and natural for young children, but none of that can be replaced by a parent that reads to their child.

Good job! Reading to our kids requires a fresh commitment everyday as there is always something to pull us away from it. I enjoy your blog and book recommendations. Thank you.

Lauren said...

Thanks, Quirky Momma! Don't you just love listening to them "read"? Always a highlight of my day, and just so, so sweet.

Krista G, thanks for your note! I couldn't agree with you more. My son was a very early reader. For a long time, we just assumed he had memorized things or knew a lot of sight words (which was probably the case -- and certainly how it started), but soon learned that he was actually reading on his own. We never consciously set out to teach him to read; we just read to him often and it all ultimately clicked. I so enjoy witnessing the whole process, with both him and my daughter. Of course, being a part of the process is pretty fabulous, too. Story times are some of my favorite times of day!

I look forward to checking out your website and wish you the best of luck with Monkisee. Thanks again for taking the time to write! I always love hearing from fellow readers.

Happy reading!
:) Lauren

Unknown said...

Hi there. New reader to your blog and love it. This post is so sweet. I know that for myself, I never really think about how important all that time invested in reading really means for my girls until I have one of these breakthrough moments. I have a 10 month old baby, and she actually turned the pages of a board book on her own instead of trying to eat it. It was a small victory and amazing to watch her eyes scan each page as she clumsily turned the pages.

Lauren said...

Hi, Jenny! Thank you so much for your comment and for taking the time to write! I'm so happy you enjoy the blog :) I absolutely LOVE what you said about your daughter learning to turn the pages of her book. I can so clearly picture when my kids did the same thing. Those breakthrough moments are just so wonderful, aren't they? And you're so right -- it's easy to forget how meaningful and influential our story times really are until we experience those little moments. They make the whole experience even more rewarding.

Thank you again for writing. Keep enjoying those cozy moments with your girls!

:) Lauren

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