When I read with kids, even very young children, I’m constantly encouraging them to think deeply about their reading: ask questions, draw conclusions, and make connections. This is so important for raising a child who is going to be a proficient reader but is also important when we think about raising a child who is a critical thinker.
In addition to thinking about a child as a reader when I read with them, I’m constantly thinking about the child as a writer. Reading and writing are so intertwined; we can learn and teach so much about each of these things from the other.
When I read a book to my kids, I want them to know that a real, live person wrote the book. That someone drew or painted the pictures.
That is why, every time I pick up a book to read to my kids, I do one simple thing before I open the book. I introduce them to the author and illustrator.
This helps them think deeply about the book: questioning the person who wrote it, making connections with the author, drawing conclusions about the author’s intentions or decisions.
It also helps them as writers. By being introduced to the author of each of their books, our kids learn that our books do not magically appear on our shelves, but are created by hard-working people just like them.
I typically don’t just read the bylines. I want the author and illustrator of the book to feel like my kids’ friend. So I introduce them by first name. If I know anything about the author, I try to tell them something about the author as well. (If your family always refers to adults by last name, you may choose not to refer to the authors by their first name. I do this because I think it helps my very young children connect with the authors, but if they were meeting the authors in person, I would ask them to call them by their last name or put Mr. or Miss in front of their first name.)
“A man named David wrote this book. Do you know David actually started writing this book about himself when he was only 5 years old?” (I love referencing No David! to children just beginning to write and read because this is true! David Shannon’s book No David! was based on drawings he made at 5 years old and the book now has a Caldecott Medal. How inspiring and exciting for young kids! )
“Robert wrote this book and drew the pictures! Do you know he decided to write the book because he loved feeding the ducks in a park by his house?” (Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey)
“A woman named Barbara wrote this book and Mary drew the pictures. What do you think their book is about?” (I Love you the Purplest by Barbara Joose)
As I read I constantly refer back to the author and illustrator when it makes sense.
“I love how Mary used really bright colors on this page!”
"I wonder why David decided to write this part?"
When we show our children that books are written by actual people – real people holding a pencil and paper, making decisions, creating characters and settings, plot and theme – I think that we give them a huge gift. We allow our children to see the great possibility that lies for them in literature: that they can question and praise the person behind their reading, and that they have the power to create great literature too.
So next time you are opening up a book to read to your child, STOP! Before you read the first word or admire the first picture, make sure that your kids know who put those words and those pictures on the page.
Looking for the books I've mentioned today? Find a link to order them on the sidebar of this page!
Know someone who will enjoy this post? Share below!