Tuesday, November 20, 2012

FEasT on Books as a Family by Dr. Danny Brassel

As the holidays beckon, many parents will find plenty of extra time with their children at home. Why not make it quality time and cuddle up behind a bunch of great books? My children and I try to “FEasT” on three a day.
            Alright – I’m no fan of teaching acronyms either. Still, I am a huge proponent of simple mnemonic devices constructed to make my life easier. The “FEasT” acronym stands for the types of books I’d like you to read every day during the holidays with your children: a “F”avorite book, an “Eas”y book and a “T”ough book.

            Favorite book. Remember what your favorite book was as a child? Maybe you marveled at the mischief of Curious George or yearned for your grandfather’s reassuring read alouds of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Perhaps you loved it when your mother sat you are on her lap in the family rocking chair and rocked away as you both enjoyed Robert Munsch’s Love You, Forever. All of us had favorite books as children, and I like to encourage parents to especially read these books to their children. You may not know this, but you read these books a little bit differently, and your children will pick up on that.
Additionally, when your children show preference to a particular book, you want to read those books constantly. If your children insist on you reading a chapter from a Harry Potter book, by all means – read that chapter. Have children who delight in the silliness of Captain Underpants? Read away! Almost all parents I have ever met can share a story of a book that annoys them to no end because their children insisted on them reading that book aloud 875 times. Sound familiar? You need to understand that your child is memorizing that book. This is a great confidence booster that will attract your children to read more. That is why easy books are so vital…

            Easy book. This is a book that you read again and again with your children. I have three children: Kate (a third grader), Sean (a first grader) and Samantha (a preschooler…and a handful!). While Kate and Sean may act cool in front of their baby sister, it never ceases to amaze me how transfixed they will become as Samantha enjoys Sesame Street on television or brings me her favorite Humpty Dumpty-shaped treasury of nursery rhymes for me to read to her. Easy books build confident readers. Even though Kate is a pretty good reader in her own right – reading plenty of chapter books about Judy Moody and Magic Treehouse sleuths Jack and Annie – she still delights in any of our endless collection of titles featuring The Berenstain Bears and Arthur. And Sean marvels almost as much as me at the true genius of Dr. Seuss, who manages to always include meaningful messages embedded in rhyming confidence-builders designed to interest anyone in reading by making all audiences view themselves as bonafide readers.
            Tough book. When I work with teachers, I usually point out that this is the greatest failure I most frequently see in schools. I bet just about every first grader in America saw the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, and I bet you all of those first graders understand the movie. I also bet that most of those first graders would not be able to read the script. Our listening comprehension significantly outpaces our reading comprehension at a young age. Thus, parent read alouds are vital.

            While I love that schools across the country celebrate Dr. Seuss Day every March, I am incessantly annoyed to see so many adult volunteers go to classrooms to read aloud Dr. Seuss books. Have you ever noticed that in the upper right-hand corner of many Dr. Seuss books there is a Cat in the Hat with the slogan “I Can Read It All By Myself” arched around it? That statement is meant as a reaffirming message for children, not adults. Kids can read Dr. Seuss books! They cannot read more complicated, “wordier” texts. So why not pick out more challenging texts with topics that will intrigue your child? My father was a history major in college, and he passed down his passion for history to me by reading me stories about explorers, our Founding Fathers, astronauts and an array of other figures. Parents have a responsibility to pass along this wisdom.
            So, the children have vacation from school. Mom and Dad have extra time off from work. The malls are packed, the freeways are parking lots and nothing decent seems to be on any of your 357 television channels. Why not spend this holiday season by visiting your local library, bookstore or even your personal home collection of books? Wouldn't it be great if more folks would choose to pig out on something that will boost their children’s intellect rather than their waistlines? “FEasT” on three books a day with your children during the holidays, and you can inspire your family to become a household of readers.

Danny Brassell, Ph.D., is “America’s Leading Reading Ambassador,” helping parents and educators inspire kids to love reading and achieve more. He is the author of eleven books, including his top-selling Secrets for Successful Readers. A father of three and professor in the Teacher Education Department at California State University-Dominguez Hills, he is the founder of The Lazy Readers’ Book Club, www.lazyreaders.com, Google’s #1-ranked site for cool, “short book recommendations” for all ages. Watch video tips and learn more from Danny at www.dannybrassell.com, and check out his TEDx-Village Gate talk The Reading Makeover next month.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed your post very much Danny! You have made several valuable points that will enhance the brains of both children and adults. Families will certainly benefit from your FEasT recipe for the holidays!


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