August 20, 2013

A Launch Pad to Creativity

Many years ago, I read an article that recommended reading aloud to children every day of their lives – from the very beginning (maybe even in-utero) until the day they leave for college or their own apartments.

Sadly, I don’t think enough parents read aloud to even their young children these days, let alone to kids who’ve learned to read on their own. In fact, I’ve even heard occasional comments from parents thrilled that their children have learned to read – no matter how cursorily – because it means they’ll “finally” get back all the time they’d been “losing” each day reading to them.

After seeing that article, though, I started reading aloud at least a few days a week to my middle school students. And when I transferred to the high school, I continued the read-aloud practice with my students there. I wondered if they’d feel I was treating them like “babies” – I had mixed-grade classes, including plenty of 18-year old seniors – but they enjoyed it, often asking me to read more than one chapter a day. And it wasn’t because it got them out of work; despite our 10- to 15-minutes of read-aloud time a few days a week, I didn’t decrease my classroom expectations at all.

When I left classroom teaching to stay home with my newborn daughter, I determined that daily read-alouds would be a priority throughout my children’s lives. And, with the help of my book-loving husband, I’ve maintained the practice even as my girls approach adolescence.

In fact, it’s been through seeing my kids’ development in ways not possible with my students that I’ve grasped the importance of the habit. You see, as much as we’ve attempted to develop a rich learning environment for our children – they took their first plane ride when they were mere toddlers – we’re not able to physically visit every country of the world. Not even close. And, of course, we couldn’t time-travel even if we were independently wealthy. But books truly do open up the world – across space and time.

I’ve seen time and again how my children have latched onto aspects of various books we’ve read and have then synthesized those ideas into something new during a doll or play-acting game of their own creation. Just the other day, they created a storyline with their Barbies that would “solve racism.” Inevitably, the seeds of their ideas have come from books – those they read on their own but also plenty we’ve read to them.

If you’ve not been in the habit of reading to your older children or students, introducing the practice will necessitate some scheduling adjustments. But, of course, anything worth doing requires effort. In terms of where to start, just choose something a little above your children’s independent reading level – the book lists created by Jim Trelease and Gladys Hunt are great resources – and begin. If you want to build the genius quality of creativity into your kids, reading aloud to them is a perfect launching pad. 

Photo Credit: familymwr


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