Today marks the start of a 3 part mini-series regarding reading. I am proud to introduce my partner in this series, Ms. Mariel Uyquiengco of The Learning Basket. She will be our guest writer for the whole of this mini-series!
Mariel Uyquiengco of The Learning Basket used to borrow one chapter book, usually a Nancy Drew mystery, from her school’s library at 6:30 a.m. She managed to return it (and borrow another one) by 11:45 a.m., the end of her school’s morning session. Today, she runs with her friend, Sanne Unson, an online bookshop featuring pre-loved children’s books by the best authors and illustrators.
Reading Aloud Chapter Books To Young Children
We read a story called A Baby Sister for Frances by Russell Hoban when my daughter was not quite three and we were waiting for the arrival of our second child. I remember complaining that it was very long, and can we please stop and just continue tomorrow? But my daughter loved Frances and the little songs that she sings, and always begged us to read again for the very, very last time. With parched throats, read we did.
Some time after, I saw the “Frances series” on a list of chapter books for children. So, quite by accident, we discovered chapter books, which I had originally thought were for older kids. After all, I breathlessly devoured A Little Princess, Five Children and It, James and the Giant Peach, Tom’s Midnight Garden, and many others when I was already around ten.
What are chapter books?
Chapter books have little illustrations that do not move the story’s plot. You can say that it is a cross between a picture book that tells its story with a lot of pictures, and a novel which doesn’t have any at all.
Chapter books can be enjoyed even by non-readers. You’ll be surprised with how long young children can listen. The question is, can you read without pictures?
We continue to read amazing picture books even as we burrow our noses into chapter books. However, there are many reasons to start reading chapter books even to children as young as three or four years old. Here are some of mine:
Children can imagine the stories in their minds
Instead of being presented with an illustrator’s interpretation of the story, children can conjure up images in their minds. Often, I ask my child, How do you think (name) looked like? or How do you think that happened? We spend a few minutes just imagining and sometimes even drawing what we come up with.
Children’s listening skills and attention span are developed
In my Kindermusik educator’s training days, I learned that listening is different from hearing. Listening involves hearing, understanding, remembering – it is a mental process. When we read to our children without pictures to help them know what is happening in the story, we are training them to listen, pay attention, and understand.
Vocabulary is enriched
A longer book means more words. Hopefully, if it’s a good book, your child is bound to encounter an unfamiliar word that you can pounce on and delve in. Sometimes, even I don’t know what a word means and I demonstrate my research skills and look up a word in the dictionary (uhm, most often in Google). We love playing “use ___ in a sentence” to fully own our new word.
Different ideas can be explored with your child
I’m telling you now that chapter books can be loooong for reading aloud. But a good book’s length can be a rich, bubbling source of ideas. In the chapter called “Alone” in Frog and Toad Are Friends, we discussed why people want to be alone sometimes: maybe it’s to think, to relax, to let out anger, etc. Of course you can do this too with picture books, but getting to know the characters in different chapters, and therefore in different contexts can deepen the readers’ connection with the story and those in it.
Reading together is good family bonding time
Take away all the benefits listed above and I would still read looong books aloud every single night. It gives me the perfect reason to slow down and spend focused, quiet and relaxing moments with my children.
When they grow up, I pray that the looong hours we spend on our bed reading together will be what they remember the most, and that their Mama gladly said yes to read again for the very, very last time.
Watch out for the next part of this series tomorrow over at The Learning Basket where Mariel will tell us all about the chapter books she is currently reading to her four-year-old!