The importance of exposing young children to good stories is well established. Reading aloud brings parents and children closer together; high quality literature makes readers (and listeners) more empathetic; being read to helps make children good listeners and better thinkers; and reading aloud increases children’s vocabulary and improves their comprehension.*
A study from 2015 shows that reading aloud to young children is an even better way to build their vocabulary than talking with them. The language found in books is more formal than that used in speech, which means that children are exposed to less common words when read to. The author of the study, Dominic Massaro from the University of California, says, “Reading takes you beyond the easy way to communicate. It takes you to another world and challenges you.”
Last month, we celebrated our second annual Storybook Day, which is really a week-long celebration of literacy. On Monday, teachers shared their favorite stories and their love of reading with their classes. Every day we enjoyed snacks inspired by great stories, such as Blueberries for Sal and Bread and Jam for Frances. On Thursday, we encouraged all the children to bring their favorite storybook to class to share with their friends, and to dress up as their favorite storybook character or bring a prop from their favorite storybook. Children came to school dressed as the green crayon from The Day the Crayons Came Home, a sparkly fish from The Rainbow Fish, and Frida Kahlo from Fridah Kahlo and Her Animalitos. We ended the day with a puppet show. Finally, on Friday, we made the connection between bible stories found in picture books and the Torah, and the fours classes went into the chapel to see a Torah up close.
I would like to thank all the parents and grandparents who, in honor of Storybook Day, donated books to our library or donated money so that we could purchase books from our wish list. Keeping our library shelved with high-quality literature – both the classics and new releases – and high-quality nonfiction is essential to our program. By sharing these storybooks with our children, we are teaching them new words, building connections with them, and introducing them to the world.
*Shortly after writing this piece for the bulletin, I came across this article which also connects reading aloud with improving children's attention and behavior.