Power up for National Reading Month: Let words and stories make magic

Long before they speak words, babies are listening closely to them. They hear and recognize your voice, watch your face as you talk, and turn toward sounds. The 100 billion neurons in their brain are getting ready for great things, and research continues to show that reading and storytelling influences little ones’ success going forward, well beyond the classroom.

While any time is a great time for stories, March is National Reading Month and makes a 5-star opportunity to celebrate reading. The power of imagination helps propel children toward making their dreams reality, and a love of reading contributes significantly.

Reading to babies helps stimulate the part of the brain most involved in language acquisition and comprehension. According to Kids Health from Nemours, “…by the time babies reach their first birthday they will have learned all the sounds needed to speak their native language. The more stories you read aloud, the more words your child will be exposed to and the better he or she will be able to talk.” They add, “But perhaps the most important reason to read aloud is that it makes a connection between the things your baby loves the most—your voice and closeness to you—and books.”

The payoff is huge. A HuffPost Canada blog post two years ago by educator Jerry Diakiw, titled “Reading and Life Success,” reports that “Increasingly, new research across many countries is showing that the best predictor of future education achievement and life success is reading ability—or, more significantly, being an engaged reader.” He uses John Guthrie’s definition of the engaged reader, quoted by Diakiw, as “purposeful, intrinsically motivated, and socially interactive.”

Board books are a great way to introduce infants to reading and to continue cultivating it with toddlers and preschoolers. The durable pages stand up to hard use and bold bright illustrations, along with few (or even no) words plant the seeds of  creativity and “what happens next” sequential story telling. For example, Silly, Chilly Zoo is a rhyming story that 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?

For the age 4+ crowd, help get them excited about reading and imagination with a build-a-book activity kit. They get 24 mini-book all ready to be decorated and put together. The books are packed with incredible facts about dinosaurs, insects, pets, and sea life. The set is a wonderful way to support STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math) education, as well as to encourage curiosity and develop enthusiasm for reading. Every mini-book also features its own sticker activity.

A Reading Flash Card 4-Pack, also for 4 and up, combines practice of letters, pictures, sounds, and small words to start a child’s big adventure in reading. The preschool/kindergarten combination advances language skills, while also allowing for backtracking and reinforcing areas that still need practice and/or sharing with peers and siblings who are at a slightly different stage.

Stories “accomplish” so much in terms of child development. Of course they introduce new words and ideas, but they can also teach complex concepts such as healthy competition, sharing, and empathy and compassion for others. Reading stories that involve feelings can also help kids understand their own emotions, feel less alone, and learn coping skills for a variety of situations. Stories also sharpen imagination and help kids see new angles, perspectives, and possibilities.

The Start to Read! Complete Early Reading Program 18-Book Set has storybooks and complementary materials across three progressive reading levels. It’s designed to build a solid literary foundation for kids while teaching them that reading is fun! Relatable themes and memorable characters increase engagement, and fun-to-memorize songs on the companion CDs make bedtime, bathtime, and anytime more playful, even as they help reinforce important letter-sound and letter-word skills.

Reading to and with kids is one of the most important things parents can do to build a foundation for success--one witty, wonderful word at a time.