The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at
home in the bosom of my family.

-Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Loving Literacy

We are book nerds. I’m not ashamed to admit that. Nor am I abashed to say that we have no TV. The truth is we prefer to read. This love of literacy applies especially to Alli. We have even decided to have Alli’s fourth birthday be a Birthday Book Bash (with her resounding approval, of course) where the guests who choose to bring a gift will bring a book rather than the traditional present pick. This is particularly useful since of late she favors feathers, movie ticket stubs, and stuffed animal innards as her “treasures”. We still have several unopened Christmas and birthday (yes, they’re almost a year old now) presents that she does not care to open and play with.

I digress…

My objective for this post is to share some of the really keen ideas for imbuing the love of literacy in little ones. Disclaimer: do not attribute any of these ideas to my own intelligence; mostly I have gleaned them from my ever-enthusiastic pseudo-sister, Shauna. She is a powerhouse of a woman and actually wrote an article for our Church magazine last spring that helped to substantiate the spiritual affirmations surrounding my impending marriage and stay-home-motherhood with Nick and Alli. So, here’s a shout out for fellow book nerds:

1. The “Book Fairy”

This is one of my favorites since I get to dress up in my wedding dress and tiara (what newly married bride doesn’t seek for that opportunity?!) Also, I made my own wand which was surprisingly gratifying. The idea is that when I catch Alli reading on her own—I quick make the Clark Kent change and come down the stairs carrying a lavishly wrapped box. By the way, the box is reusable so I don’t have to wrap each for each fairy visit—and as Shauna says, “It’s all in the presentation. It could be a D.I. (Salvation Army or Goodwill) book and it still looks appealing to them”. In my “fairy” voice I ask Alli what kinds of books she’s been reading lately, which are her recent favorites, why she likes reading, etc. and then she gets to open the box and the Book Fairy reads them to her. Alli still doesn’t know it’s me but says, “The Book Fairy had your lips” so I think she’s on to me! Also, the Book Fairy only visits once or twice a month, so it's really low pressure and enforces the pleasure of independant reading with a sporadic, big reward.

2. Book Clubs

Since I am currently a multiple book club groupie I thought it only fair that Alli gets to share in the joys of sharing a good book. Alli’s book club took place on a Saturday afternoon and lasted about an hour, so it really is not too hefty of a commitment on my part or participating mothers. The agenda went something like this: we read several books on birds (The Magpie’s Nest, Stellaluna, selected poems from Wings on the Wind, and talking about pictures from a reference guide), interspersed with finger plays and songs, we built paper bag nests with pompom birds inside plastic Easter eggs, and we ended with making edible nests from yogurt, All Bran, shredded fruits and veggies, and grapes for eggs.

Shauna’s most recent book club for her daughter, Coco (Alli’s peer), was not thematic but rather based on the fabulous author and illustrator Kevin Henkes. Really, I encourage any mother of children as young as preschoolers and every age on up to create a book club. This comes from the tremendously profound writings of….

3. Jim Trelease

His book, The Read Aloud Handbook (aka “The Literacy Bible”), has not only changed my life but helped to solidify many of the methods I was already involved in with Alli. I am inadequate in my writing to sufficiently shed light on this remarkable book. It is jam packed with reasons to READ READ READ READ. Please buy this book. You will want to write in it, take it with you to bookstores and libraries, take it to the restroom (what better place is there to ponder on the betterment of mankind?), sleep with it under your pillow….

**What are some of the things you do with kids to boost book lovin’?