Valparaiso Community Schools: The Value of Literature for Children

By: Valparaiso Community Schools Last Updated: December 27, 2016

Hayes-Leonard-The-Value-of-Literature-for-ChildrenTo read or not to read to children is not the question. But to read or not to read with children is the question. On the surface, there seems to be little difference between the two actions, but the difference between the two is great. At Hayes Leonard Elementary, the staff works to make literature come alive for children by reading with them.

As parents, we strive to give our children every advantage. We gladly transport our children to practice, private lessons and club sports. We hope the advantage will later translate into the best college or university, the best job and ultimately the best life possible.

It is less often that adults invest that same amount of money and time when it comes to reading with growing children. Parents naturally set aside time to read to their small children. But the best gift an adult can give children is the time to read with them.

Here is an example for parents without a lot of spare time: In the Newbery Award novel, "When You Reach Me," the main character’s name is Miranda. Miranda cannot understand why her mother, a paralegal, named her after a protective criminal procedure rule to protect a person suspected of a crime. Miranda finds out that her name was a name created by Shakespeare in his play, "The Tempest."

The name Miranda is derived from the Latin word mirandus meaning admirable, wonderful. Miranda became a popular girl’s name in the 20th century, and it is the name of one of the moons of Uranus.

Imagine the richness and the depth of knowledge that can be gained from reading just that one section with a child instead of reading the whole novel aloud. Reading with children develops strong vocabulary and influences the development of strong writing skills. Good literature expands a child’s world, develops an appreciation and understanding of different cultures, teaches ethics and develops intellectual gifts.

Another example of how reading with children is different from reading to children could occur with the novel "A Single Shard."

"A Single Shard," by Sue Ellen Park, is a story that teaches perseverance, courage, creativity and devotion. It is set in 12th century Korea. The main character, Tree-Ear is an orphan who lives with Crane Man under a bridge and lives on the cast-offs of others.

Tree-Ear admires the work of potter Min, who designs celadon pottery, the finest in all of the village. Tree-Ear inadvertently destroys one of Min’s intricate works of art. As a result, Tree-Ear has to spend nine days chopping wood for the community kiln. Min’s wife provides Tree-Ear with a lunch each day, and observes that he only eats half of it. Tree-Ear saves the other half for Crane Man’s supper in the evening. The ensuing events change the lives of Tree-Ear and Min forever.

After reading the story, parents could take children on a trip to the Chicago Art Institute to see the Korean celadon pottery to add another dimension and deeper understanding to the novel.

The Mary Englebright poster that show a young girl reading a book on magic carpet as it flies through the night says it all. “A book is a present you can open again and again.”

Open that present with children this holiday season.