February is Love Your Library Month.
And what better way to love your library than to use it! Reading aloud to children is another excellent way to celebrate Love Your Library Month. The Library of Virginia and Virginia’s public libraries offer many resources to identify good books and encourage reading aloud with a child.
The benefits of reading with children are extensive. It’s a wonderful opportunity to bond with a child and learn more about them. Children’s author Mem Fox summarizes this bond through reading, saying: “Parents get to know their children through the way they read to their children and what they’re reading. Parents get to know their children’s character, and children get to know their parents. There’s a fondness that develops that’s just gorgeous.”
Hearing stories increases vocabulary and lengthens attention spans, both indicators of school readiness and success. Reading aloud also teaches language and cultural values according to Meghan Cox Gurdon, children’s book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal and author of The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction.
Reading out loud to children is critical in exposure to words. A recent study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found that children whose parents/caregivers read them five books a day start kindergarten having heard more than a million more words than children who are not read to. Another way to look at the importance of reading to children is the number of words children hear:
- If they’re never read to, they’ll have heard 4,662 words.
- If they’re read to 1-2 times per week, they’ll have heard 63,570 words.
- If they’re read to 3-5 times per week, they’ll have heard 169,520 words.
- If they’re read to daily, they’ll have heard 296,660 words.
- And if they’re read five books a day, they’ll have heard 1,483,300 words by age five.
Public libraries in Virginia are wonderful resources for programs and books to encourage early literacy and school readiness. Beyond story times, many libraries offer 1000 Things Before Kindergarten, a program for children under age five to read books and complete suggested activities with the goal of having read 1,000 books and/or completed 1,000 activities before the child starts kindergarten. Books and activities can be repeated.
The Library of Virginia maintains Day by Day Virginia in both English (https://daybydayva.org/) and Spanish (https://daybydayva.org/es/). This online family literacy calendar features a book recommendation, a song, an activity, a video, and additional resource links for every day of the year. Grouped by seasons and themes, the entries are intended to provide school-readiness activities and behaviors in which caregivers can engage their little ones.
The Library of Virginia also provides access to Dial a Story, a toll-free telephone call to listen to a story read in both English and Spanish. Each Wednesday, a new story is available to listeners. The stories are a rotation of recent picture books, fairy tales and folk tales, books highlighting equity, diversity and inclusion, and classic picture books. Over forty volunteers read the stories in English and Spanish. This program, available 24/7, presents an analog opportunity for strengthening reading readiness using picture books and telephone technology. You can Dial a Story by calling 1-833-690-0646.
If you need additional help identifying good books to read aloud, check out the New York Public Library’s 2022 most borrowed books list. In honor of the New York Public Library’s 125th anniversary, a team of experts from the Library carefully evaluated a series of key factors to determine the most borrowed books, including historic checkout and circulation data (for all formats, including e-books), overall trends, current events, popularity, length of time in print, and presence in the Library catalog. Six of the top ten titles were children’s books: The Snowy Day, The Cat in the Hat, Where the Wild Things Are, Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Of course, public library staff is the best resource for recommendations for books to read aloud and interest your child. Their experience and expertise will guide you to wonderful books! So love your library this February – visit your local public library and check out books to read aloud with a special child in your life.