Once Upon a Time… The Importance of Reading

Heather Schmid
Quietly, I slip into the classroom not to disturb the learning.  Having the position of Language Arts Learning Specialist allows me to tuck into and out of all the different grades all day long. Today, late morning, I’m in eighth grade English with Mr. Arkin’s students. Gone are the alphabet letters and artwork decorating the classroom walls. There is no mistaking that the middle school students claim this space as their own. The students focus on their teacher who reads a story about a bull from Spain. His storytelling is complete with different voices for each character. The book selection, The Story of Ferdinand, is a picture book for . . . kindergarteners. The book is, of course, part of a much larger and sophisticated writing project. If the students brace for the upcoming assignment, they do not show it; they are too busy laughing.

In early October, I spoke at the First Grade Coffee introducing myself given that I am new to my position, but not new to Harbor Day. My presentation highlights how to foster reading and writing at home and building effective homework habits and supporting creative learning. In the midst of it all, I state that reading, in all of its forms, is as essential as water and sleep and air to children. Whether you are a parent of a kindergartener or of an eighth grader, I believe that one antidote to the frenetic pace of childhood and of life, in general, is reading to your child. I think of it as a homeopathic remedy for stress and anxiety. When reading to a child, the mind is captured and free to imagine. It is nearly impossible to listen to a story being read and not feel the world melt away. 

Storytelling is as old as humans and crosses all cultures, continents, and religions. It is decidedly a human endeavor, not requiring screens, swiping, or liking with a double-tap. It brings a connection between the reader and the listener, engages the brain in creative thought, builds imagination, and strengthens vocabulary and writing structures. Reading aloud is monumental to fostering inquisitive thinking, deductive reasoning, and a love for language. Yes, reading to a second grader looks somewhat different than reading to a seventh grader, but actually not much different. Before lights out at night, plop yourself next to your child in bed and pick up a book for fifteen minutes. Do it often so it’s part of the daily round. Read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus to your first grader and read a few pages of Beyond the Bright Sea or Hatchet to your eighth grader. Let them just be, just listen. If you haven’t read to your older child in quite some time, simply say, “I miss having time for the two of us when we’re not driving somewhere or getting something done. It would make me really happy to read aloud a few pages of this book. Will you listen?” Then do it again the next night. 

Here are a few final thoughts:
Read to your child
Read with your child, which is different as you share going back and forth
Listen to stories on Audible 
Let your child see you reading
Share about something you’ve read/are reading at the dinner table
Make up stories on long car rides
Tell stories from your childhood
Amazon can filter ‘the best book lists’ for every age and stage 

My secret wish for all Harbor Day students is never to outgrow being read to before falling asleep . . . content, connected and calm. “Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” Robert Brault
About the Author: Mrs. Schmid is excited to support students as the Harbor Day School Language Arts Learning Specialist, Lower School Language Arts Chair, and a Sixth Grade Advisor. With over twenty years of experience in elementary education, Mrs. Schmid has her Master of Arts in Education with an emphasis in Psychology, a California Teaching Credential, and extensive training in learning modalities and curriculum development. As a passionate educator, Mrs. Schmid enjoys supporting students to overcome challenges, embrace their strengths, and love learning. Her teaching has been recognized by the Johns Hopkins University Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth as well as by the Disney Learning Partnership.


Harbor Day School

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Harbor Day School is a co-educational private independent K-8 school established in 1952.