This weekend I had the opportunity of hearing James Patterson, one of the greatest authors of our times. He pointed out why we – an audience of authors, illustrators, editors and agents gathered at SCBWI’s annual winter conference in New York City – were doing what we do. It’s certainly not for the money! We work in children’s literature because we are passionate about creativity, education and reading.
Early childhood reading is taken too lightly in our country. Research shows that third grade reading scores often predict a child’s future success, and even prison convictions. According to ReadingPartners.org “a student not reading at his or her grade level by the end of the third grade is four times less likely to graduate high school on time, six times less likely for students from low-income families. High school dropouts are 63 times more likely to be incarcerated than college grads.”
Across the US, just under half (47.8%) of all children five and under are read to everyday, which means that over 13 million children go to bed at night without a bedtime story. In Arizona, only 43.2% of children are reportedly read to every day (Russ et al., 2007).
It’s hard to argue that poor reading skills are connected with unfavorable life outcomes. So what can we do about it? Patterson said “Most kids never find a book that they love,” and as an author, we owe it to these kids to produce fun, entertaining and educational books. Not dumbed down children’s literature, but smarter and more realistic stories that would inspire young readers. By the time they finish, they should say, “Please give me another book!”
I can’t tell you how many times parents have written to be saying that their son or daughter read a ‘Beato Goes To’ book and immediately asked for another one. They were curious to see where Beato goes to next, and felt they were traveling with him too. During the holidays, I received lovely notes from you readers stating how a young reader in your family had ‘Beato Goes To’ on his/ her wish list from Santa. These messages simply make my day and enforce my vision of impacting kids to learn about the world, so keep sending them 🙂
One thing I don’t like to hear is, “My kid is too young to read.” It is important for parents to read to their kids from day one, and it is never “too early” to do so. According to Mem Fox (2001), author of Reading Magic, reading with your child should start at birth. When a child is born, their brain is not completely developed and will continue to develop over the course of their first year of life. Reading daily to young children, starting in infancy, can help with language acquisition and literacy skills. This is because reading to your children in the earliest months stimulates the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language and helps build key language, literacy and social skills.
Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.
Books like ‘Beato Goes To’ also teach kids about different cultures, places and foods. It introduces them to foreign characters, costumes and themes that are often stereotyped in the outside world. By introducing kids to Beato and his travels, kids start to love these characters before they learn to hate.
“There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids who are reading the wrong books.” ~ James Patterson