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Language and Literacy Series: What Reading Looks Like Together

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University.  This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog.

Reading TogetherOne of my favorite sayings is “If you take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.”  I can think of no other moment more precious and invaluable to ensuring a strong foundation than reading with a child – whether in the classroom, at home or in the library.

Language and literacy is the foundation for all learning. It’s a major portal through which the other learning domains unfold including math, science, social studies, creative expression, proficiency with technology, social /emotional development, 21st century skills, executive functioning and healthy, physical development.

We know that children acquire early, emergent literacy skills through various verbal and non-verbal forms. Books, in both print and digital form, have a well-earned and beloved role to play in supporting early literacy. They offer a unique progression of experiences.

While digital content brings its own unique benefits in terms of interaction and engagement, exposing young children to real books —so they have a full tactile and sensory experience of books — is always a good idea. Letting young children spend time alone with books, turning the pages and having an “up close and personal” involvement with the pictures and the letters on the page can stimulate their imagination and set the stage for self-driven exploration.

Reading books to children is equally valuable and establishes an especially positive and meaningful relationship as you read together. That meaningful relationship is the seedbed upon which a child’s confidence can flourish.

Interactive reading takes this a step further. Though it sounds like a tech term, it doesn’t have to be. It’s simply a style of reading with children that uses all elements of the book as a springboard for fuller exploration. That exploration might lead you to an app, online or real-time activity. For example, a story about baking cookies could lead to actual cookie baking; a story about finding a treasure could lead to drawing a treasure map.

Editor and author Jason Boog, is a real champion of interactive reading. Here he shares a list of print books provided by the American Library Association that are rich with opportunities for interactive reading.

Below are just a few examples of some great interactive reading books that support important skill development for early learners to get you started:big-green-monster

Social Emotional Development:

  • “Go Away Big Green Monster” by Ed Emberly

This book helps children unpack their fear of the unknown by literally taking it apart one page at a time.

Executive Function:give-a-mouse-a-cookie

  • “If You Give A Mouse a Cookie” by Laura Numeroff

There is no better way to understand process, consequences, and cause and effect than these delightful books.

  • “Curious George Saves His Pennies” by H.A. Reycg-saves-pennies

Helping young children learn and understand self-regulation and judgment are essential skills for lifelong success. Curious George explores through playful  trial-and-error exploration.

21st Century Skills:

  • “Jumanji” by Chris Van Allsburgjumanji

Innovation, creative problem solving, and collaboration are demonstrated through this amazing adventure where the world changes all the time.

Social Studies:

  • “Ultimate Weird But True,” National Geographicultimate-weird-but-true

Packed with tons of really cool, wacky facts that get little kids totally excited and engaged about the real world.

Over the next several weeks I look forward to discussing the power of language and literacy from some unusual points of view. What does gesture, behavior modeling, sound and vocabulary have to do with learning critical skills? How do you foster a love of reading with so many distractions? How do you use ebooks and other digital media and tools effectively to inspire a love of language and words? I will also provide ideas, recommendations and tips on ways to engage young learners.

Enjoy!