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Is Reading for Pleasure Important?

April, 2011
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reading-fun-2s1For some cultures, reading for pleasure is a relatively new phenomenon. I was recently listening to a parent discuss how much their family is enjoying all the reading their child is doing in the primary grade. She shared that she really didn’t come from a reading culture, and was enjoying the process of creating a “love of reading” culture at home. It is certain that great parent-child discussions are happening in the home because of this reading culture.

Developing your child’s habit of reading for pleasure can be quite tricky, especially if they think reading is not fun! Most likely you already know whether your child enjoys being read to or reads silently. So what to do if they don’t? Here are a few ideas that might help your family become a reading family. Caution: All ideas come with a dose of patience, persistence, and consistency.

Idea #1: Make reading aloud a family event that brings everyone together…no matter what the age. A former colleague who taught technology classes in the States wanted to have more discussions with her middle school and high school children. She bought a book that neither child had read and began to read one chapter at dinner every night. It only took 1 chapter before they were hooked. They spent several years reading aloud after that. Key to this success was to get an exciting book that the children will love. What book did my friend read? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; It had just come out. Now is a great time in children’s literature for fast-paced action packed thrillers. Ask your school librarian for some recommendations.

Idea #2: Do you have a young child that won’t sit still for stories? Read in the bathtub! Take bath time back from your ayi, and read stories aloud no matter how much he or she is splashing. Read poetry, sing songs, or read the same book over and over. They will be able to recite that book before you can. You are building language skills, patterns, rhythm, and wonderful brain stimulation. I found some great plastic books at cheap stores that my children pretended to read while I read to them. We also practice letters, numbers, and spelling with shaving cream on the walls in the tub. Bathrooms are wonderful teaching environments.

Idea #3: Create special reading places in your home where only reading can happen. We had a wonderful pre-k teacher who brought in a plastic swimming pool to her classroom and filled it with books. The children enjoyed leaning against the side of the pool and reading. Tents abound in Shanghai; create a reading tent. Go inside together with a flashlight and read books together. Get a beanbag, a comfy chair, or under the table to create a special reading environment. Make it unique!

Idea #4: In any of those fun reading spaces above, get together and tell stories! I can already hear people complaining that they are not good at storytellers. We are all expert storytellers about our own life and those of our family and friends. My children love the stories about me…like the time I landed in a mud puddle on my bike and you could only see the whites of my eyes. As they get older, I tell them stories about themselves when they were younger. WARNING: They will begin telling stories about you from their memories.  At least you can correct their erroneous recounts!

Becoming a reading family may take some persistence, but the rewards are “priceless”!

By Barbara Boyer

Elementary Librarian, Shanghai American School – Pudong Campus


Book Reviews from Shanghai American School Librarians…

Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother by Xinran

Xinran, the author of the bestseller The Good Women of China, has written another book on Chinese women, this time focusing on their relationship with their newborn daughters. As the book’s subtitle states, the author examines stories of love and loss, referring to the love and heartache that Chinese women feel when confronted with the fact that they have not given birth to the desired son.   The stories can be a hard read for someone not familiar with the harsh realities that Chinese women and their families faced in times past, though not necessarily distant, when a baby girl was born. Land, prestige, an heir to the family name and sometimes survival itself were often on the line when a woman went into labor, and the delivery of a baby girl more often than not dashed those hopes and unfortunately the newborn infants were the first to feel the pain. Over her career as a radio broadcaster and author, Xinran has interviewed many heartbroken mothers who often live a life of despair, wondering whatever became of their little girl. It is through their pain and stories that Xinran wants to pass a message on to adopted Chinese daughters living around the world. Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother is one book that you will find difficult to put down. (Ages: Adult)

Review by Jeff Barrons, High School Librarian on the Puxi Campus

linda-sLinda Bailey, a well-known Canadian children’s author, is coming to Shanghai in March 2012! She will be hosted by the Shanghai American School for two weeks and will consider visiting other schools in Shanghai too.

She is a prolific writer of novels, picture, non-fiction and history books. We love Stanley the Party Dog, and the Stevie Diamond mysteries are also exciting. The Good Times Travel Agency gives some time-traveling experiences to the Binkerton family - and provides very good historical information too.

Take a look at her website: lindabaileybooks.com! Her books can be ordered through the Blue Fountain website in Shanghai. (Ages 4-10)


The Tale of Rhonda Rabbit 
by Sarah Brennan

The newest book in the Chinese Calendar Tales is out and about and giving children a thrill as they always do! Rhonda is just soooo naughty, sneaking into the Emperor’s vegetable garden and stealing his lovely greens. And then we have a beloved and very wicked cat thrown into the mix. Who is going to come out the winner in this exciting story?

Sarah has a very good website (sarah-brennan.com) and loves to do school visits. Her books are readily available in Shanghai too. (Ages: 5-10)

Review by Rosemary Kinyanjui, Elementary Librarian on the Puxi Campus

scorpia-sScorpia Rising: An Alex Rider Mission by Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider is now fifteen years old and more than ready to leave behind all the pain and suffering that Alan Blunt and MI6 have brought to his life. They promised to never involve him again…until Alex is attacked by a sniper at school and his best friend is shot. Somehow this attack, the shootings in the London Museum, the helicopter crash in the Thames, and breakout of an inmate from a high security prison in Gibraltar will bring Alex back into the business of spying at an elite private international school in Cairo, Egypt. Who is the evil behind these well-planned events? The answer is Scorpia, the international criminal organization that killed Alex’s family and tried to kill Alex himself several times! In this final Alex Rider adventure, fans will be swept away with the fast-paced action, surprised by some well-know characters (Smithers!) and torn apart by the chain of events.   Strap yourself in and eat a big snack because you won’t put it down until it is over…and it is over! (Ages: 10-15)

Turtle in Paradise
by Jennifer L. Holm

Turtle is a self-described hard-shelled girl. Not mean, but certainly a realist. In this year’s Newbery Honor book, Turtle has to travel to Key West, Florida, in June 1935, to live with family whom she has never met because her mom is a housekeeper for a woman who doesn’t like kids.   Turtle doesn’t really blame the woman because she too has met many mean kids. Turtle is unpleasantly surprised when she finds her family is mostly made up of rough boy cousins. She uses her brains to hold her own against this fun-loving diaper gang group (you will have to read the book to find out about the gang). There are many different “treasures” in this Depression era book, but none as valuable as the relationships of these colorful characters in Key West. This book will bring you sunshine on a cold wet day! (Ages: 9-12)

Reviews submitted by Barbara Boyer, Elementary Librarian on the Pudong Campus


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