"" Writer's Wanderings: Read It Again Grandma!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Read It Again Grandma!

[Since I wrote this article, the reading levels of my grandkids have risen. We've shared the Harry Potter series, Hunger Games, and a few other popular reads appropriate to their ages.]

“Then our mother came in
And she said to us two,
‘Did you have any fun?
Tell me. What did you do?’

“And Sally and I did not know
What to say.
Should we tell her
The things that went on there that day?

“Should we tell her about it?
Now, what SHOULD we do?
What would you do
If your mother asked you?”

                    (The Cat In The Hat, Dr. Seuss)

            I love Dr. Seuss books. I loved reading them to my children. I love reading them to my grandchildren. The Cat In The Hat is fun because it opens the door to the imagination. Just what would you tell your mother if you’d had a day like that? I’ve received all sorts of answers from a shrug of the shoulders and a giggle to “Oh, I would tell her everything.” I think the tell-all answer was so that the cat could get the blame for everything.

            Reading to grandchildren is a privilege to be treasured. First of all it is a great opportunity for bonding between child and grandparent. There is nothing more pleasing to both than to snuggle up together with a pile of books and explore the adventures of the characters as you turn each new page. Books are fun. Books take you to places you could only imagine. Books teach you about the things around you. Books connect you with the world of imagination. And you can experience it all together with your grandchild from the comfort of your easy chair.

            Early habits of reading to children from infancy on are helpful in language development. The extended vocabulary of my four year old grandson can be accredited to my daughter-in-law’s devotion to reading to her children. He continually amazes people with his use of language well beyond his years. All of that is reinforced when he visits Grandma’s book collection and we read the favorites his father read when he was little and delve into the new ones I add to stimulate his curiosity.

            According to the National Center for Family Literacy (www.famlit.org), reading is “brain food.” It develops listening skills when you ask questions about what you’ve read. What color was the apple? How did Peter find his way home? Running your finger over the words trains a child’s eye to travel left to right over a page (in Western cultures) and thereby prepares him to read on his own. When stories are repeated it helps children “predict outcomes, draw on prior knowledge, and recognize sequences” as well as build memory skills.  Reading can also encourage analytical thinking.

            Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that “daily reading routines are important for a child’s early literacy development.”

            But how do we keep that interest in books growing as our grandchildren get older? The answer is simple. Read with them.

            As children progress through the elementary grades and higher, they are required to expand their reading material. As grandparents, we can help by keeping in touch with what they are reading, reading it for ourselves, and then discussing it with our grandkids. If we’ve already established a relationship in the early years that lets the child know that we care about reading, we lend credibility to the importance of books and their influence on our lives. And, let’s face it, some books that are required reading in school are real “stinkers”—books that are difficult or just don’t hold interest for some who have to read them. What encouragement it could be for a child to know that a grandparent is reading the “stinker” too and will be talking about the book with them. It could be just what is needed to prompt him to finish a book he’s not thrilled about but is required to read for class.

            While I hear now, “Read it again, Grandma!” I also look forward to discussing more serious subjects than why Curious George always gets into trouble. Perhaps we’ll discuss the flamboyant lifestyle of the Great Gatsby or the incredible survival story of Ernest Shackleton as he explored the Antarctic. Or, perhaps my grandchildren will even introduce me to new reading adventures I have yet to discover. Whatever direction our reading takes it will make a grand book club.


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