I was trying to think about the activities that we focus on at my house…why do my husband and I think these are more important than others? And, well, quite frankly, I could come up with no good reason, other than they are important to him and me. I have read a lot of books on parenting, homeschool, teaching, learning and most of it boils down to one thing: personal interest.
We have found this to be true in our own household as the topics and activities we value are reflected in our children’s learning. And, not just because we choose to “teach” them, but rather, because we are actively learning about and participating in them. At our house that means French language study, playing guitar and computer programming. The kids have their own interests too (robotics and animals) and they pursue that type of learning through the books they pick out at the library, items they choose to ask for, etc.
However, the one “skill” that I consistently teach, beginning at birth, is the importance of reading.
We give books as presents – to reinforce the idea that books are special
As I am a trained librarian, reading has always been important to me. It was a key point in my decision to be a librarian, as the keeper of knowledge, the defender of the everyday rights to knowledge – regardless of income or race or language.
It is the one goal that I have for them at an early age – to love books. I was lucky enough to come across Jim Trelease’s book a few years before my oldest son was born. It validated my thoughts and helped me to preach to others. And, since then, there are a number of other books (this is one here) that support this research-backed opinion.
My younger son, age 3, with an interactive book he received for his birthday
We all know that reading to a child is important. And, yet, even I struggle to find the time on certain days to read aloud to my youngest child. He is learning to read, but he still needs a lot of exposure to books, reading, content. This is key. It’s not just that by reading, you are showing them you think books are important. You are. They are. Another key purpose to reading aloud is to introduce them to content.
My oldest son, looking through a homemade content book at age 6
Dr. Montessori said that true reading was being able to match up the word with understanding (hence, comprehension). An easier way to put this, I might technically be able to read a 2nd year medical school textbook, but I wouldn’t be able to understand it, therefore, rendering the “reading” of it, useless.
In addition to the books my children choose from the library, I also bring home some reality-based picture books for them as well. This is where we are “just reading,” but also imparting real-life content. I am building their vocabulary and helping them to figure out how the world works around them. Dr. Montessori called this the absorbent mind, and she said this was the main way a child, aged 0-6-years, learns.
So, while we have Dr. Seuss books in our house, they are mostly for the capable six or seven-year-old. We focus on non-fiction books and reality-based picture books for five and under (which is not to say we don’t read those other books, if asked, just that we don’t offer those books first).
To recap: 1) read to them, 2) read to them a lot – especially reality-based fiction or non-fiction books, and 3) let them see you reading.
A picture of my oldest son’s bed, taken September 2014, age 8.5
“Man himself must become the center of education and we must never forget that man does not develop only at the university, but begins his mental growth at birth, and pursues it with the greatest intensity during the first three years of life.”
– Dr. Maria Montessori, Absorbent Mind