Adults bring books to life for kidsNew reading workshop aims at getting kids’ hands and minds on books
WORTHINGTON — Apparently, reading is still fundamental. When Tara Thompson, District 518’s Early Childhood Family Education coordinator, advertised a workshop aiming to help adults more effectively read to young children, she was surprised at how quickly the 25 available spots were snapped up—and at how many of the registrants were childcare providers.
By: Jane Turpin Moore, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Apparently, reading is still fundamental.
When Tara Thompson, District 518’s Early Childhood Family Education coordinator, advertised a workshop aiming to help adults more effectively read to young children, she was surprised at how quickly the 25 available spots were snapped up—and at how many of the registrants were childcare providers.
“We clearly found an interest niche,” expressed Thompson. “Obviously the rapid response shows there is a need in our community for this.”
And that need is likely not limited to Worthington.
“A survey that was part of the last census showed nearly 80 percent of Minnesota mothers with kids ages 0 to 5 work outside the home, so we must do whatever we can to emphasize to kids’ caregivers that reading to kids, exposing them to the written word, is critical,” added Thompson.
On Monday from 6 to 8 p.m., the “Reading Aloud Basics” workshop will take place at Worthington’s Pizza Ranch, schooling the 25 attendees on the best practices and strategies for reading aloud to children. An additional group will benefit from a shortened version of the workshop tailored to Spanish speakers from 4 to 5 p.m. the same day.
The workshop is an effort of the Minnesota Humanities Center (MHC) and made possible locally with grant money provided by the Southwest Initiative Foundation. Tom Fitzpatrick, MHC’s director of community partnerships, will lead the program.
Fitzpatrick’s interactive presentation includes the benefits of reading aloud, research about reading and early brain development, language and vocabulary development, components of holistic literacy, tips for reading aloud, and suggestions for different types of books and story-related activities to which kids of various ages will effectively respond.
Thompson, an early childhood specialist for over 22 years, knows that reading aloud to children can sometimes be the last thing a tired parent wants to tackle at the end of a long work day, especially when the seemingly easier options of a television show, video game or computer surfing beckon to ever-younger youth.
“As adults, we tire quickly of the repetition our children want and need in the books we read to them, but repetition is one of the ways they learn best,” shared Thompson.
“We need to be able to tolerate that repetition for a period of time, but you can help their minds grow and make it more interesting for yourself by expanding on what you’re reading—add color words, ask open-ended questions, have kids anticipate what’s going to happen next—all these things help develop their language skills and improve their vocabularies.”
With Worthington’s diverse population, Thompson recommends books that depict cultural sensitivity, and she notes books with photo illustrations can be attractive to children, as they can better relate that to a real-life experience.
She also has found that the “Clifford” books by Norman Bridwell offer positive messages for kids, as each of the books is written with at least one positive character trait in mind—for instance, being truthful and responsible, sharing, working together and being a good friend.
“Find the books that interest your kids, whether they’re about trucks, dinosaurs, gymnastics or rocks, because not all books interest everybody—and surround them with them,” advised Thompson. “Have books in the kitchen, family room, car and even bathroom. Make books readily available to them and teach them book-handling skills at an early age.”
Unlike many current popular high-tech entertainment options, such as Xbox or Wii, plenty of books can be obtained for little or no cost. The public library offers a wealth of books and other materials for nothing more than the effort of completing a form to receive a free library card, and local second-hand shops and garage sales are “excellent sources,” Thompson says, of low-cost kids’ books, too.
“School book orders offer fairly inexpensive books—some for as little as 70 to 90 cents—that are paperback but good reading material, and the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which sends a free book each month to qualifying families, is available in our community, as well,” said Thompson.
While workshop participants will cover many of these points and more on Monday, Thompson believes that the more people who are knowledgeable about the need for children’s early literacy education, the better.
“Before they get to kindergarten, kids should be able to recognize a book’s front cover, know how to hold a book correctly, recognize that words have meaning and that books have information.
“Plus, we want kids to know that books are entertaining.”
For more information about reading readiness information or early childhood education opportunities, contact Tara Thompson at 507-376-9188.