The joy of chapter books
         Many parents understand the joy of reading to their children. The bedtime story is an institution in myriad homes. 

         There are many reasons to include chapter books in your repertoire when you read to your children.

         * This builds listening skills. Since there are usually few pictures, children have to fill in the pictures with their own imagination. Television and movies are primarily visual by comparison, so this helps to balance the visual with listening.
         * The vocabulary and language are generally very rich. Exposure to new words and ways of putting them together is helpful to young children who are just learning how to read and write.
         * Itís an activity that families can share and make part of their common experience. 
         * The best-written stories touch on values many parents will want to reinforce with their children: friendship, courage, adventure, perseverence through adversity, etc.
         * It leads to reading as a choice activity for children.

         I have a story that supports the last example. At a presentation I gave to parents, a mom told me that her second grade daughter didnít choose reading as an activity. She wondered if I had an idea that could help.

         I suggested that mom choose a chapter book to read to her daughter at bedtime. Mom told me that they usually read in bed starting at 8:00 and then turned lights off at 8:30. I suggested that mom then offer a choice to her daughter. When 8:30 came, she could either turn off the lights and go to sleep or, if she wanted to continue reading, she could continue reading on her own until 9:00. There arenít many children who can resist the opportunity to delay their bedtime by another half-hour.

         The idea worked. Her mom emailed me a few weeks later to tell me that her daughter was now hooked on these chapter books. What had begun as a way for the seven-year-old to get away with an extra half hour of being awake transformed into a new way of spending her waking hours during other parts of the day.
         This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís  Advice for Parents.

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