Can children enjoy books even before they can read? Of course they can! It’s no secret that children absolutely love books. They love being read to and love looking at the pictures even more. But what if they didn’t know how to read? What if the book you were reading did not have any pictures? Are children still interested?
As parents and as teachers, we are often guilty of only reading picture books or grade-level books to our children. What we often seem to forget is that children’s comprehension level is generally much higher than their actual reading level. In other words, children reading at a second grade level can actually comprehend at maybe a seventh grade level. In our homes and our classrooms, we spend countless hours teaching children how to read. We sound words out and blend sounds together. As necessary as this is, it can also be exhausting to children. Sometimes, it is nice to just sit back and enjoy a great story. Picture books are great but they often fail to stimulate a higher level of thinking. This higher degree of thinking is just as necessary for children to grasp as reading itself.
My last job was running an after-school program at an elementary school. At one point, I had a group of low functioning kindergarteners. None of them could read. I decided to test my newfound knowledge of children and their comprehension level. I read the book Charlotte’s Web to them. None of the students had ever seen the movie so they had very little background knowledge of the story. The chapter book did not have any pictures in it. After every chapter, I made sure to stop and do some type of hands-on activity. After a few days, children were asking when we were going to read. They loved reading time! Children who couldn’t sit still for more than five minutes before were now sitting still for upwards of half an hour. The best part was, they not only understood the book, they could retell it when asked. What kind of price tag can you put on that?