Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Book Every Parent Should Read

There are plenty of debates in the world of parenting. Attachment parenting, cry-it-out, breastfeeding, diapering, vaccinations, daycare, eating organic, spanking...the hot-button issues are nearly endless. Pick any one of them, and you are almost sure not only to find people who passionately think XYZ is THE best thing you can do for a child, but also to find just as many passionate other people who believe the complete opposite, and think XYZ is harmful, or at least is not that necessary, or not possible for everyone. It's enough to make a mother's head spin.

So while Steve and I have made choices for our family about the things listed above, and while I hold very strong opinions about a few of these issues, I'd be treading on pretty shaky ground to say that any book advocating one of these viewpoints should be required reading for every parent. They're sensitive decisions, and people who I deeply respect and who love their children tremendously come down on different sides of the arguments.

However, I'm going to be bold and say that reading to your children falls entirely outside this realm of parenting debates. Can anyone argue that NOT reading to your child is better than reading to him? Can anyone claim that it's not possible for everyone? (At least in the U.S., even illiterate parents have access to public libraries where they can obtain audiobooks for free.) Would anyone say that reading to your child is harmful? So maybe reading to children is the one issue all of us mothers can agree on --let's do it, because it's a GOOD thing.

That's why there IS at least one book I think every parent should read.

When Elijah was four months old, my mom gave me The Read-Aloud Handbook. I wasn’t particularly interested at first; I was already sold on reading to my son, and the title didn't seem particularly intriguing, to be honest. But Mom’s enthusiastic description of the author, Jim Trelease (based on hearing him speak in person), intrigued me. After reading the introduction to the book, I was captivated.

I knew instinctively, having been raised in a home that valued education, that reading was important. But it wasn’t until I read The Read-Aloud Handbook that I understood exactly why it was so vital to a child’s growth. Trelease uses up-to-date research and inspiring anecdotes to illustrate the power of reading to shape an individual and even a nation. He explains the value of reading aloud even to children who can read for themselves, and shows how to begin. He provides tips for coaxing kids away from the TV and advice on how to create a reader-friendly environment at home.

The second half of the book is a read-aloud treasury. Trelease lists 1,000 books that are great for reading aloud, from picture books to novels, and shares some of his favorites; you can even find books listed by theme.

I have some quotes from the book I'd like to share, but I'm afraid it'll make this post way too long--so watch for a follow-up post later today or tomorrow. Meanwhile, you can check out Jim Trelease's website, including these printable brochures:

Ten Facts About Reading
30 DOs to Remember When Reading Aloud
A Dozen DON'Ts to Remember When Reading Aloud


Sarah D. said...

Hmm. I was given that book as a baby shower gift. Sounds like I need to read it! =)

P.S. I know what you mean about "hot-button" issues. I think my head is still spinning from all the "mother advice" out there! =)

Unknown said...

LOL about the hot button issues! I've had, and still have, discussions about those topics with others. I'd love to hear where you stand on some of them, out of sheer curiosity. Feel free to e-mail me about it privately. :)