7 reasons to read books with your children
To become a good children’s writer, one must love one’s little readers. Love of children is what brought me to this challenging but very interesting field. Writing for children is not easy, but it is a great honor and a great joy.The market for books is flooded with good and not-so-good books. Most are for entertainment, but I wrote to educate, not entertain. Unfortunately, our children today are growing up with a lack of morality, in a harsh and cruel world which does not teach them the principles on which my generation, and even my sons’ generation, was raised. This cannot fail to alarm those parents who believe, as I do, that in any society, the ultimate winners in life are those who live according to the dictates of their consciences.
When my son was five years old, he asked me, “Mama, what should I never ever do?” I suggested that we both give careful thought to something so important to him. My little boy agreed with pleasure, and very soon we put together a fairly long list which we called our “moral code.” But even after our successful collaboration, I realized that for a child, those words were just dry dogma. They had to be brought to life. And then I had the bright idea of turning to children’s literature, which would help my boy to better understand the line dividing good from evil. This method worked. The books became a good supplement to our moral code. In addition, the boy gained an interest in reading, which later developed into a habit.
Today in many families, the children spend many hours staring at computer and television screens. As a result, the child develops visual memory, but auditory information is perceived less well. Book reading can successfully fill the gap.
Today, when children often do not see their parents for the whole day, reading together can be a way of showing parental love. The small child will look forward to that time the whole day long. And think how important this can be for children who are growing up without a father or mother! There are also those children who have undergone stress or a psychological trauma. We call them special for a reason. These children need extra attention, so they will not feel injured by fate, alone and abandoned.
From my experience I know that nothing binds parents and children like reading together. I have noticed that the child will try to sit as close as possible to the parent who is reading, and the child’s facial expression changes. He or she feels like a protected and wanted member of the family.
Children, like adults, often dream about what they saw or heard just before going to sleep. In my view, Spiderman, computer characters, and music idols do little to promote a good night’s sleep. The principal motivation for the production of such “content” is the sale of superhero toys in McDonalds.
Too much activity before bedtime can disrupt the sleep of even a psychologically balanced adult. And we sometimes fail to notice what our vulnerable little children have been filling their eyes with over the course of the day. Remember that the play station is in their hands!
A good storybook can step in and crowd out the influence of the aggressive mass media. And if the child has become accustomed to such visual irritants, a story can at least lessen their impact and lay the groundwork for a good night’s sleep.
However much we may love our small children, we are aware that they too have their faults. We try to correct those flaws with dry admonitions, which the child all too often forgets a minute later. Sometimes they are not even heard! Then, a good book can come to our aid. It allows us to dispense with reading the riot act, yelling, and punishing, which usually do no good anyway.
Any parent has the opportunity to raise his or her child into a good person. It is important to teach children, above all else, to use their God-given gifts of conscience and empathy.
Every small child confronts the question of right and wrong. When conscience tells us we are doing wrong, we have a choice of either acting correctly or compromising with wrong by striking a deal with our conscience.
Children understand quite well that bad deeds will get them scolded, maybe even punished. But the important thing is not to scold or punish, but to figure out why the child did something wrong. It is better to provide a good example, proving to them logically that it would have been better to act differently. If one fails to do this, children acquire the habit of lying to hide their moral compromises. It is important for them to understand that people will love them for behaving well, which means acting towards others as they would like for others to act towards them. This kind of love has to be earned by good deeds and honesty, and it is different from the short-term “love” that is earned by lies and two-facedness. I am often asked where I get my ideas for my books. The answer is simple: I get the ideas from life. Today, I am very sad to say, family values are seriously threatened. Still, it is the family that should play the main role in a child’s life, and parents should be an example and an authority. So my writing is oriented toward family values.
My books are designed for artistic and esthetic education. But they are written in such a way that the child doesn’t suspect that. Lively dialogues, interesting characters, wonderful illustrations – these are totally different from tedious preaching.
It is a good thing when a book is liked by both parents and children. While a child may approach reading as a form of entertainment, parents should clearly understand why their child needs a certain book.
It is widely known that people are not born with good manners and tact; these things need to be instilled in a growing child. Parents should of course set an example, but children who fall in love with characters in books and identify with them, always try to emulate those characters. For that very reason, the heroes of my books are for the most part polite, tactful, and well behaved.
For example, in everyday life we often see displays of intolerance. Our children deal with intolerant attitudes from early childhood. After reading to a child my book Puny and Don – about a piglet who was mocked by all the other animals because he hated mud – parents will find it easier to explain how important it is to treat those who are different with understanding and tolerance.
Here are examples of several other stories which will aid you in bringing up children.
Except for rare exceptions, we are by nature selfish and greedy. If a child has a greedy streak, no amount of preaching will help. Read to a small child my story Chipper the Chipmunk, about a chipmunk who didn’t like to share with others. In the story, a old magical chipmunk comes to Chipper and teaches him that nothing can replace friendship.
My story See, Mee and the Redheaded Menace is about two talented little mice and the boy who were at war – and how hostility can be transformed into a solid friendship.
Tiny Mite is about a pint-sized violinist who encountered insects with similar talents and became their conductor. He helped them free a cricket from captivity, and they became best friends.
The touching story for older childred, White Mustang is about a boy whose legs were paralyzed, but who dreamed of becoming a strong, skillful horseman like his father. It tells how this romantic boy found his pathway in life.
Then there is Selena, the fairytale-like adventure of a valiant little girl from the Planet Earth by the name of Selena and her faithful dog Kolo. Landing on the moon, meets new friends and frees them from the wicked ruler.
The story Scuffy is based on a true incident from my childhood. A white rat that became part of my family. This charming little creature was not exactly welcomed by the grownups at first, but eventually became everyone’s favorite.
So, to summarize, here is what reading aloud to a child provides:
An atmosphere of mutual love;
An orientation to family values;
Improved ability to visualize;
Enhanced ability to orally process information;
Many people invest money and time in their businesses, their houses, and works of art. But arguably our children are our best investment. Spend freely on your children, and your old age will be peaceful.
Just recently my adult son told me, “Mama, you won’t believe this, but I still remember our moral code.”