Spring and Easter celebrate new beginnings. March is National Reading Month. That makes it the perfect season to plant seeds for a lifetime of reading. While filling Easter baskets for the littlest learners, why not plan to tuck a few books in with the jelly beans, chocolate bunnies, and dyed eggs?
With reading, like so many things, “the earlier the better” is a good rule of thumb. Even infants respond to animated voices as well as books with texture, and toddlers become yet more responsive to and involved in stories and words on a page. The Zero to Three website is a resource that “provides research-based tips on how to share books with babies and toddlers to maximize the joy and learning of book-reading and to nurture a lifelong love of books.” A couple of their ideas include “talk or sing about the pictures,” “let children turn the pages,” and “ask questions about the story, and let children ask questions too.”
In “Fifty Top Literacy Statistics” published by the Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy and compiled from across the past couple decades, one source they cite is a study published from the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation in Ypsilanti, MI. It includes this dramatic figure that illustrates the importance of early learning: “The greatest amount of brain growth occurs between birth and age five. In fact, by age 3, roughly 85% of the brain’s core structure is formed.” And pulling from a book titled Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, by Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, another point on the list is: “Children’s academic successes at ages 9 and 10 can be attributed to the amount of talk they hear from birth through age 3.”
Clearly, the early years are critical in terms of language development and relationship to later learning. And reading during the toddler years builds a bridge for smoothly transitioning to preschool.
The Mom365 blog, in “Why It’s Important to Read to Toddlers,” notes that “reading to children helps develop imagination, listening skills, and a lifelong love of books.” The post furthers says, “One of the most important benefits of reading to kids is that it plays a large role in language and literacy development.” So it’s easy to see why it can help ready kids for preschool/school success.
But it’s not just storybooks that important. For example, books for toddlers that include activities for strengthening multiple skills, are a twofer: they build a child’s comfort and familiarity with the look and feel of books and they also playfully teach essential how-to’s. One example is Buzz, Buzz! My First Coloring and Sticker Skill Book. This easy-to-pack, paperback helps kids discover the joy of creativity early with bees, bugs, and other creatures. First, they match stickers to small pictures on each page. Then they use the stickers as guides to help them color the larger pictures. Along with following directions and matching, these activities also help build focus and eye-hand coordination. The skill book can also become a delightful keepsake. The final page offers a large box, with the instruction “Draw a picture of yourself below.” Right underneath it are fill-in-the-blanks for name and age. Years from now kids can look back on this ‘self-portrait at 3” with big smiles.
As another example, Train Your Hand! Numbers 0-10, gets kids ready for both writing and math, as they join Tiptoe, a curious purple cat, on adventures. Associated phrases such as “Monkeys with tails like 6’s are swinging in the trees. What fun we have eating bananas,” add to the creativity and make learning extra fun. Clear instructions and large number will help toddlers and early preschoolers confidently trace numbers 0-10.
Looking for a classic nursery tale? When kids think of Easter, they usually also think of bunnies, CyberCrayon.net has made available online and in printable form The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. What child won’t love the story of a somewhat naught rabbit and his sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail?
This Easter, go ahead and hop to it. Get kids jumping into the world of reading with adorable books and quality time spent with Mom and Dad.