Friday, August 21, 2009

Preparing to Read

Before children can read words, they are absorbing clues about stories in other ways, and often more quickly than we think.

We could speculate about why Mother Goose’s often nonsensical rhymes are so appealing to young children, but since they don’t have the tools yet to tell us themselves, we will never know for certain. The rhymes offer so many details and such unusual situations, that they’ve inspired an abundance of illustrations both delectably simple and elegantly complex.

Every nursery should have at least one collection of Mother Goose rhymes, and we recommend My Very First Mother Goose for its inclusion of all-time favorites and Rosemary Wells’ welcoming animal characters. What I like about Mother Goose: Numbers on the Loose as an addition to your child’s Mother Goose library is that Leo and Diane Dillon have created a loose kind of logic to the nonsense rhymes through the unifying theme of numbers and the idea of putting on a play.

Most of the rhymes the Dillons have chosen use numbers 1 to 5, which toddlers can master on one hand. Still others in this volume have been set to music (such as “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep,” “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe,” and “Four and Twenty Blackbirds”), so youngsters have yet another way of building confidence, a kind of Musical Literacy. I also think it’s important that adults enjoy the books they read (or sing) aloud, because when a child loves a book, they want to return to it again and again, and the more variety you can discover in the illustrations, or in the ways that you join in the refrain together, the more you and your child enjoy the book together.

As young children feel more confident with words and numbers, with holding a book and turning the pages, they begin to think of themselves as readers.

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