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March celebrates reading, opens doors and windows that promote understanding

In many parts of the country, with winter still in play, it’s a little early to let in spring breezes. On the other hand, it’s the perfect time to let books flow freely. After all, it’s National Reading Month, and March 2, which is Dr. Seuss’ birthday, is also the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day!

Several of the teacher-oriented “13 Big Ideas for Celebrating NEA’s Read Across America,” require some planning, but two delightful ideas are easy to implement for moms and dads, as well. One is a Book Scavenger Hunt. They suggest that adults “Challenge students to search for books that provide mirrors (stories that reflect their own culture and help build identity) and windows (stories that offer a view into someone else’s experience and the range of possibilities in the world.” They urge taking a trip to a school or public library for Read Across America and having kids “look for five titles that are mirrors and five that are windows.”

Another easy idea is the promotion of “kind readers.” The site says, “Words of caring and kindness can help people know they have value and that someone cares. Get students thinking about why small kindnesses matter and how to make them happen.”

A great thing about this gesture is that it sustains the February feel-goods from Valentine’s Day and Random Acts of Kindness day, and emphasizes that kindness can—and should—roll over from one month (and day!) to the next!

Two books they suggest are Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour and I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness, by Kerascoët. The former, as noted on Amazon, “subtly addresses the refugee crisis,” and “a young girl must decide if friendship means giving up the one thing that gives her comfort during a time of utter uncertainty.” Amazon describes the latter book as inspired by real events and telling “the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying.”

A book for very early readers that also addresses the theme of bullying is The Big Race, a Level 2 storybook from School Zone’s 3-level Start to Read! series. In this book, identical twins named Jace and Mace outsmart a neighborhood bully called Ace, illustrating that two clever, determined people working together really can outsmart a neighborhood bully called Ace.

Along the lines of promoting kind readers, a Level 3 book from the same series is A Different Tune. It’s a story that open with, “Once upon a time, in a land far away, everyone looked alike and did things the same way,” and it ultimately helps teach children learn that being different from everyone else can be a wonderful gift.

Raising Children, an Australian parenting resource, in an article titled, “Reading and Storytelling with Babies and Children,” highlights that “Reading and storytelling with your child promotes brain development and imagination, teaches your child about language and emotions, and strengthens your relationship.”

In April of last year Science Daily, in an article titled, “A ‘Million Word Gap’ for Children Who Aren’t Read to at Home,” reported on research from The Ohio State University that found significant differences between kids who were regularly read to and those who weren’t. A summary noted that “Young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to…,” adding that “This ‘million word gap’ could be one key in explaining differences in vocabulary and reading development.”

Jessica Logan, lead author of the study and assistant professor of educational studies at OSU, was quoted as saying that “Kids who hear more vocabulary words are going to be better prepared to see those words in print when they enter school,” and “They are likely to pick up reading skills more quickly and easily.”

Introducing the littlest learners to the “moves” of reading, for example, the page-turning of board books, is a start. Since winter isn’t quite gone, Silly, Chilly Zoo board book can make it more fun! Board books are a great way to introduce infants to reading and to continue cultivating it with toddlers and preschoolers. This rhyming story follows two kids who use their imaginations to create a zoo in a winter wonderland. Sure, you’ve seen a snowman, but what about a snow snake? A snow tiger? Watch the smiles as kids see their favorite animals in a whole new light. Colorful illustrations provide visual stimulation and provoke curiosity. Durable pages with rounded corners are designed for little hands to easily manage. Develop rhyming and reading readiness skills, while expanding vocabulary and also celebrating the joy of creativity.

When it comes to the wonderful world of reading, Dr. Seuss captured it well when he said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” And let’s add, “The sooner you get started, the better!”