Question: What is one of the best ways to keep your child busy and safe at home?
Answer: Your book stash.
As the weeks of social distancing stretch into months, and our “new normal” doesn’t look any more normal, millions of parents all over the US are looking for ways to accomplish three things:
- Get work done (whether paid work or housework)
- Keep kids safe and busy
- Prevent kids from falling behind developmental and educational milestones
One of the best ways to support all three of these sometimes-conflicting goals is to build a good book stash. Stocking your home with a variety of interesting and age-appropriate books can help you help your kids, especially during this strange and unprecedented pandemic time.
Of course, the benefits of reading are clear. Reading boosts children’s vocabularies. It strengthens their language acquisition and helps them sequence events, which are important fundamentals in the development of both expressive and receptive language skills. It gives children a safe way to learn about their emotions and how to express themselves. Reading enriches children’s imaginations and gives them a way to spend quality time with parents and caregivers.
Not all reading is created equal, though. While e-readers and tablets can have a place in a child’s reading, neuroscience research has shown that reading on a screen and paper are fundamentally different. Reading paper books and magazines exercises linear reading and deep reading skills, which can boost comprehension and contribute to building longer attention spans. Screens are less conducive to building these skills. In addition, the blue light from screens can throw off our biological clocks (our circadian rhythms), interfering with our sleep. In children, recent longitudinal research has pointed out a possible connection between screen time and the development of memory, attention, and language skills.
Of course, as we cope with this pandemic and its upheaval of the familiar routines of life, most parents are feeling stretched to their limits. Whether your child has had more screentime than normal matters less than health, safety, and security at the moment. With access to libraries and bookstores more limited than during normal times, though, having a home book stash becomes more important than ever.
Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you build your book stash:
Choose age-appropriate titles
Your book stash should include a mix of titles. Board books, simple picture books, and longer picture books all have a place. So do chapter books, which you might make a special read-aloud experience. It’s important, though, to include plenty of books that will encourage a love of reading—not discourage it by creating frustration. Choose books that are age-appropriate for emerging readers (ages 3 to 6), for instance so that your child can be comfortable exploring books on his or her own. And yes, paging quietly through a book or recalling the words from memory counts as “pre-reading” and is a valuable step in the emergent reader’s journey.
Make a wide variety of material available
Kids are curious and they learn about the world around them through reading and play. You never know what is going to spark a child’s interest. We’ve all heard about the child who loves bald eagles, or who knows everything there is to know about clouds. In fact, most children ages 3 to 6 have a few high-interest topics they prefer to talk and read about. These topics can lead to other areas of interest, so be sure your book stash has a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles covering many subjects.
Help them understand
Children absorb what is going on around them. Especially now, it can be helpful to have titles in your book stash that explain what they’re experiencing in kid-friendly and accessible language. One such book is Grace Fights COVID-19, which was the first COVID-19 book published in the Chicago area and was featured recently on WGN.
Look for ways to enhance connection
It’s never too early to nurture a lifelong love of reading and learning as well as provide entry into other topics. As arts radio host Bill Turck has said, “Where were books like Grace when I was a kid? Here is a series which is great for classrooms and homeschoolers alike.”
Your book stash can provide ideas for extension activities or help your child make interesting connections between characters, ideas, or subjects. As you encourage your child’s reading, ask open-ended questions about the time he or she spends with your book stash. You’ll be surprised by what you hear.
Build your book stash by browsing our series of titles for emerging readers, parents, and educators.
The Center for Functional Learning helps parents, caregivers, clinicians, and educators improve kids’ lives and learning with creative resources. We are the first company to combine reading skills, music vocabulary, and health promotion for emerging readers.