A Trip to the Library

Books and reading are important in our house.

 My husband and I are both readers, and we believe reading is an important foundation of learning at any age.  When our children were born, we filled our bottom bookshelves with books for babies and toddlers, and got ready…but there was a glitch.

 Both of our children were very averse to letting us read to them.  They both liked to look at books, but as soon as we started to read, cries of “No!  Stop!” and a rapid retreat were pretty much guaranteed.  And forget going to the library to enjoy browsing in the children’s section.  Bulletin boards and the librarian’s puppets and other supplies for the children’s program were by far more interesting, and also a problem because he wanted to take them with him.  So it has been very difficult to have a quiet trip to the library.

 Recently my son demonstrated an ability to read – road signs, food labels, picture dictionaries – and  I decided to make a plan.  Although it’s great that he can read on his own, a big part of the benefit of reading is in doing it together – enjoying the jokes, asking questions, commenting on what’s interesting, and enjoying a book together.

 So I made a plan, using DIR/Floortime principles.  I decided to make a library trip a weekly event, just my son and me, for as long as he was calm and engaged (perhaps only 5 or 10 minutes), but looking to follow his interests as much as possible.  Part of that involved thinking about his current interests and seeing ahead of time whether there would be a book that fit.  Here’s what happened:

 wheresmyfrogWe walk into the library after nursery school.  Matt heads down the stairs to the children’s section, and I follow.  At the bottom, I hear him quietly say, “Mercer Mayer.”  So I say, “Would you like a Mercer Mayer book?  Let’s see…”  Over on the shelf I find a few, including a flap book entitled “Where’s Frog.”  Jackpot!  He loves flaps and doors.  When I show it to him, his eyes light up and he climbs onto a chair to read it.
 My eyes stray to the shelf nearby and the title “Knock Knock!” jumps out at me – I flip through it and discover it’s about knocking on doors and finding what’s behind.  Jackpot again!
 I sit at the table with him, reading first the Mercer Mayer, then Knock Knock.  I pause often, listening for his comments and encouraging him to read some words.  I use sound effects and lots of animation in my face and voice.  I make comments on details in the illustrations, pointing as I talk.  Matt is completely engaged – smiling, eyes twinkling, voice joining in.  Lovely!  I am so excited and so enjoying this interlude with my son!

What changed?

This was a great illustration of how effective it is to combine structure (regular library visits and times to open a book together) with careful attention to my child’s interests. One night around this time, I also tried reading through a book I thought he would like despite his initial protests…and discovered he liked it, and we had a good time!  It was so exciting to sit there and enjoy a book together – knowing that my four-year-old can not only read, but he was also understanding his book.

 A blogger I know* talks about presuming competence – meaning, we assume our child is able, and then we plan a way to support him to get there.  Our kids are capable and ready for so much more than we assume they are.  The trick is just to figure out what that support should look like, and to persist in our efforts.  Baby steps lead to big ones.

 I am pondering the importance of the routines we follow every day.  Consider two scenarios – one where a child is enjoying a book with a caregiver two or three times a day – and one where he isn’t.   Of course that routine will have an enormous effect on both his social and intellectual growth.  And we’re only talking about a half hour or so of his day.

 The routines and habits we establish are so incredibly powerful.  They create the framework and the opportunities for the interactions that lead to learning.  And that structure bears fruit every time our child reaches out with an idea and we build on it.

 Now to do it again and again, every day….

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*Autism Discussion Page

For some good book ideas for early readers, check our Pinterest board here.

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