“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” I love this quote from Dr. Seuss - it reflects the power books have to teach, inspire and transport readers into magical, undiscovered worlds.
For young learners, books are an adventure, which captivates hearts and imaginations. Stories offer a vibrant way of discovering the world and through the characters enable children to learn about empathy and express their feelings and emotions, which otherwise would be difficult to verbalize.
I will never forget, how during my linguistic studies, our professor in child psychology gave us the example of her own daughter, who insisted on listening to the story of "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Andersen for an entire month before bedtime. It was the daughter's way of giving a shape to what she was experiencing in that stage of her young life.
Let's not forget about the incredible learning possibilities books offer: Children are not conscious of it, but storybook reading promotes later academic performance (Lonigan and Whitehurst, 1998), reading fluency (Ardoin et al., 2008), and print knowledge (Lonigan et al., 2008), not to mention the broadening of the worldview and improvement of concentration skills.
For teachers, books are a fabulous didactic aid. They provide a frame and context for a particular subject or theme. Instead of introducing new vocabulary or structures in a completely isolated manner, where learners will likely be disengaged most of the time, with the help of a captivating book, the teacher can capture the students' minds, hearts and imaginations, and transform the learning process into a delightful experience.
And what an experience it can be - when done correctly. Because, let's face it, you can't just dive into reading a book without setting the right tone for it: There needs to be a lead-up to the story (pre-reading), the story itself (reading) and follow-up activities (post-reading) to ensure that the young reader experiences the story to the fullest (but I'll write more about that in the next posts).
Books are not a thing of the past. They are very much alive and well: young learners LOVE being engaged with a fascinating plot and vivid characters; and teachers LOVE inspiring students with wonderful, meaningful books.
I discover this love every single time I have classes with my students (books are a big thing with me:) and also during the Saturday Creative Workshops for Parents and Kids (each workshop has a different dedicated book theme)!
In fact, I recently had one of those "Proud Teacher Moments", when after a third session with the book "From Head to Toe" by Eric Carle, my non-English speaking student spontaneously started activating the syntax and vocabulary included in the book (her associations with the pictures and movements were so strong that they triggered a pro-active language production)!
It's breakthrough moments like these, the enthusiasm and unquenched will to learn among our students that make us teachers realise that we really are making a difference! And books are a vital part of making that diffrenence :)