I don’t have kids, and I would never presume to know all the answers about that or think that I could tell a parent how to do it. I certainly don’t understand all the psychology and benefits of reading to and with kids. But I have been blessed to be a member of an elite group of people on planet earth … the children’s book makers!
Because it matters not if you’re six or fifty-six or a hundred and six, children’s books are just fun! And children’s books are a terrific tool for parents trying to develop a most important life skill in their kids … a love of reading.
For babies and very young children, simply holding them and reading to them, is an opportunity for bonding and connection.
As they grow and the books get more complex, parents can engage them more during reading sessions by discussing what’s been read and encouraging them to share their own thoughts, feelings and opinions. This is how children can learn to comprehend what they read. The more they comprehend and the better they get at expressing their thoughts and emotions, the more engaged they’ll be and they’ll gain confidence, and that will make reading all the more fun and more likely to become a lifelong habit.
Folks like me in the elite community of children’s book makers need to keep all this in mind when plying our craft. We need to write and draw just like we’re writing and drawing specifically for a reader. When we approach our work like that, we’ll give it our very best and even the simplest of books will be top quality.
Reading is intimate and proactive. When we write and draw like there’s a person listening on the other end – because there is! – then the reader will pick that up and will “hear” us speaking to them. Minds and emotions get engaged. It becomes an experience rather than a mere relaying of information. And the reader will have thoughts and feelings about that experience.
When that reader is a child and there’s a parent there with them, they have an opportunity to express those thoughts and feelings. They are learning how to verbalize and communicate what they are experiencing, and how valuable a life skill is that! And it’s a wise parent who recognizes and seizes the opportunity.
This is why children’s books are so important. They provide the simple, safe and beginning opportunities for kids to learn how to think, to experience various emotions and express them accurately and appropriately.
Start off with simple books. Then progress to more complex books. Confidence grows. A habit forms. And a life is influenced in ways that are incalculable.
If you read last week’s blog, this is the striking difference between amusement and my made-up word, musement.
Amusement is mindless and passive. You don’t have to do a thing. Don’t even think about it. Sit back and be entertained. It may even be fun, and the fun will be immediate, but it is static, empty and dead.
Musement is my made up word for something much better. It engages your mind and emotions. It is proactive and moves you forward in life. It might be fun, or it might be a bit uncomfortable. It will require some effort. It is based on the life principle known as sowing and reaping. The more effort you invest – the more you sow – the greater the harvest – what you’ll reap. But the harvest doesn’t come immediately … time is an influencing factor here.
If you have the privilege of being in charge of children, you can sow into them even as you’re teaching them to sow, too. And after a period of time and steady, invested effort, the harvest will come, and with it will come fulfillment and valuable life skills.