Few joys in life are as precious as unlocking the door of reading for a child. Seeing young faces light up when reading a story and talking about what they imagine might happen on the next page is a special experience.
Julie Foster gets to enjoy these moments all day long as part of her job at Joseph Beth Bookseller.
Foster is the children's department manager at the SouthPark mall bookstore. Growing up as a self-described “book nerd,” Foster came to the joys of reading early in life. “We moved around quite a bit when I was a child, so it became a challenge for me to make lasting friends,” says Foster. “I turned to books as a way to have a ready companion and share the wonderful experiences of the characters I met through reading.”
For the past two years at the bookstore, Foster has been sharing her love of reading with children and their parents. She is always looking for fun ways to engage children with reading and uses many avenues of pursuit.
If my experience at a recent visit to story time at the bookstore was an indication, she is wildly successful. The strollers were stacked several deep as dozens of children, ranging from newborns to 7 years-plus, were gathered in a semi-circle to listen to the guest reader for that day, Mr. Nigel.
Nigel, aka Nigel Smith, is a regular reader and entertainer who combines music, song and story reading in a program designed especially for the tiny-tot set.
Foster has established three such story-time programs weekly and often is the star attraction herself as the reader for the day. Her love of reading for children doesn't stop at work, however. She reads to her 5-year-old daughter every day for at least 30 minutes. A firm believer in reading aloud to children, Foster says, “they are never too young to be read to; it can be a tremendous bonding experience between you and your child.”
Her advice is supported by research that shows that reading aloud increases children's essential early language and literacy stimulation. This finding comes from a 2007 study called “Reading Across the Nation: A Chartbook.” The research and report was published by the Reach Out and Read National Center, UCLA Center for Healthier Children, The Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston Medical Center for Pediatrics.
The study strongly emphasized the link between early childhood reading with cognitive development, emerging language skills and ultimately greater academic success.
Foster's work and support of parents extends to older children as well. She often has parents come to her, searching for ways to make reading more interesting and engaging for their older children. One frequent suggestion she offers in such instances is a series of adventure books that allow the reader to choose where the story goes next, and even how it will end.
These choose-your-own-adventure books have numerous alternate plots and are offered with a number of different subjects that appeal to boys and girls. These books are great for kids with short attention spans because they have storylines that can be easily followed and also can be re-read with different plot twists and endings.
Books are tactile and allow for young readers to have an experience they can't gain from the Internet or television. Once hooked on reading, they are exposed to a world that can bring countless wonders to their doorstep.