Developing a Love for Reading
The cognitive benefits of reading are well documented-but where is the love?
All you need is love.
The cognitive benefits of reading are well-documented. Scientists have shown that the intellectual demands of reading, coupled with the knowledge that children gain from reading a wide variety of materials, help strengthen and build important brain structures. Kids who read in the summer show up to school better able to learn.
All fine, and a worthy goal.
But where is the LOVE? Where do you find the passion that long-time readers know so well – the staying up way past your bedtime to find out if Harry Potter will find all of the horcruxes, or wiping out the library’s collection on the Civil War because just one more book will surely help you understand why our nation fought it, or even just talking about characters in a book as if they are neighbors next door?
Not to be too squishy about it, but the library’s focus in offering a Summer Reading Program is not just to capture your kids by the brain, but by their hearts as well.
We want your child to have an emotional as well as an intellectual connection to reading and to the library. Simply put, we want your child to love the library – and to love reading.
Everything the library does in the summer is tied to making this love blossom. For example…
Many adults marvel at the fervor that a simple sticker can create in the heart of a child.
But they do! That’s why earning a sticker to place lovingly in a reading log is a signature element of the Children’s Summer Reading Program. To complete the program, children must visit the library four times, receiving a sticker for each visit. (Shhhh, here’s a secret: librarians love giving out stickers, too, so if your child visits the library more than for times, and asks for a sticker, the librarians will happily hand out another one, and another one, and another one!)
Getting together with other children and parents to read books, sing songs, and move around in silly and fun ways is not just a pleasant way to spend an hour or so. It’s a really pleasant way to spend an hour or so — and that pleasure digs down deep in your child’s psyche and stays there until it’s really needed.
Official cognitive literacy researcher types call this “print motivation,” which is a less exciting way of saying “joy.” When reading and reading-related activities bring joy to children, that joy will stay with them, especially as they begin the hard task of learning how to read. Don’t fool yourself: learning the complex process of translating letters to sounds and sounds into meaning may have been easy for your genius self, but for most of us mortals, it’s hard, and it takes time. Your children are less likely to give up when they have hours of fun, joyful, exciting library storytimes to help them get through the tough patches.
Occasionally, we’re questioned about why we have so many performers and programs in the library during the summer. What does a magic show, or a musical performance, or a demonstration of Indian fancy dancing, have to do with reading anyway?
First of all, do I need to call up my friends the cognitive literacy researchers again? Brain growth is supported through music, movement, and explorations into curious questions like “Where did the rabbit in the hat go?”
But beyond that, the free entertainment (let me reiterate: FREE) programs in all 24 library locations help reinforce the library as a fun and interesting place to go. It may be a little selfish, but the library wants you and your children to love coming, and what better way to love a place than to know you might be able to get a balloon animal made just for you, or make some simple pottery, or jam out to a fun band?
Ah, now we get to the good stuff: the stuff! Prizes and coupons are as essential to the Summer Reading Program – and the library’s designs to make your child love reading – as cheese is to macaroni.
It’s not that children are reading just to get things. It’s that, while reading fun and interesting books and learning about caves and finding out if the pigeon will get to drive the bus and being a ballerina along with Angelina, they earn things to show off their reading accomplishments.
Let’s put it this way. If you are a runner, you don’t run a 5K or a marathon to get the sticker to put on your car – but you sure do want to get that sticker to show off what you’ve done! The deep rewards are in the running; the car sticker is just an expression of that deep reward. In this case, the deep rewards come from reading; the medal and coupons and prize are nice extras.
A final word about love
It’s always nice to hear “I love the library!” But here’s something to think about: the library also loves you. Everything we do is in the service of expressing our love to the great people of Tulsa and Tulsa County.
Books Your Kids Will Love
As always, we like to give you a few suggestions for books your kids might love. (The twist is: they’re all related to cats!)
The Summer Nick Taught His Cats To Read by Curtis Manley – This charming picture book follows Nick as he shares the love of reading with his cats. It’s not easy, but he prevails!
Lost and Found Cat by Doug Kuntz and Amy Shrodes – Your kids (and you!) will be riveted by the true story of a family who left Iraq but lost their cat on the journey…and how they found Kunkush again many months later and half a world away!
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate – In this novel perfect for middle-grade readers (3rd to 5th grades), a boy must confront hard economic times with his family. When his former imaginary friend (a purple cat named Crenshaw) reappears, will he help – or just get in the way?