Why to read to your kids (and 5 local books to get started)

Parents with young kids have a lot to worry about: Will they get along with kids at daycare? Are Arby’s Curly Fries at least slightly nutritious? Is it an ear infection? Please, God, not another ear infection! After a week of cleaning, cooking, play dating and countless other burdens, along with your 9-to-5 at the office, sometimes you just want PAW Patrol to take over during a little “you” time. But first, there’s one more parenting duty to knock off your crayon-covered list: read to your kids.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to your kids from birth and states that doing so is as important as vaccinations and breastfeeding. “Parents are a child’s first and most-important teacher,” says Paul Schvaneveldt, director of Weber State University’s Family Literacy Program, which teaches low-income families in Weber County strategies for discipline and engaging in literacy with their children.

“We really focus a lot on what we call dialogic literacy, which is where you make reading time interactive; you expand vocabulary and language,” Schvaneveldt says. In other words, don’t just read the book — start a conversation with your kid by pointing out shapes, colors and objects while reading. (Ever notice Pop’s green yoga mat in Hop on Pop, or that one Wild Thing reminds you of Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden?)

Recently, the Family Literacy Program followed up with families that were in the program about a decade ago and found that parents are still reading with their children, who are thriving in school. “They’re at level, above level — oftentimes, they’re the children who are the better performers in their school,” Schvaneveldt says.

Read to your kids to set them on the right path, too.

Margaret Brennan Neville, Kid’s Room Buyer and Manager at The King’s English Bookshop, recommends the following books to get the job done:

Read to your kidsHow to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan (local author) and Lee Wildish

“Jean’s How To series has a wide audience. Her lyrical rhyming text will please and amuse audiences, because, let’s face it, there are a lot of grandmas and grandpas who need watching,” Brennan Neville says. Reagan’s newest book, How to Scare a Ghost, is also a fan-favorite.

Read to your kidsDude! By Aaron Reynolds and Dan Santat

“This book has one word! Your child will be reading it to you after the first go through,” Brennan Neville says. Dude! follows a platypus and beaver who want to go surfing but have to contend with a shark as well. Santat’s detailed illustrations make the book a perfect go-to for practicing dialogic literacy.

Read to your kidsSnowmen at Night by Caralyn and Mark Buehner (local authors)

This author and illustrator team are known for their snowmen books, which Brennan Neville says are “oozing charm” and offer “illustrations that beg for careful examination,” i.e. hidden pictures. The Buehners have also released Fanny’s Dream (a pioneer Cinderella story) and Dex: The Heart of a Superhero (Dex finds out there’s more to being a superhero than having muscles).

Read to your kidsPrincess in Black series by Shannon and Dean Hale (local authors), and LeUyen Pham

“Magnolia, so pretty in pink, also has to morph into the monster-beating, kingdom-saving Princess in Black whenever there is danger,” Brennan Neville says. Don’t be deterred by the 96 pages. With a lot of fun pictures by illustrator LeUyen Pham accompanying the story, these books work for a wide range of ages.

Read to your kidsA Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke

“We didn’t know that we were so interested in sloths until this book came out,” Brennan Neville says. “Great way to explore a species in trouble, and the pictures are darling.”

You can pick up any of these books at The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, SLC. To learn more about the Family Literacy Program or to participate, visit weber.edu/familyliteracy.

Read more of our family content in our Kid-friendly blog roll.

Jaime Winston
Jaime Winstonhttp://www.saltlakemagazine.com
Jaime is a contributing writer for Salt Lake magazine. Formerly, he served as our editorial intern, then as our assistant web editor, and, finally, as our web editor. While he covers many different topics, he is especially interested in nerdy entertainment, from FanX's artist alley to Sundance's Midnight screenings.

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