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Letters, Words, Stories, Imagination

Do you know who the best storytellers are? Kids. Yup, hands down, because, amongst other things, they have little bias or judgment. No past baggage to edit their stories. In fact, they really don't care if you like their stories because, to them, those stories are real and, most of all, fun. Logic aside, kid stories are based on what they have been exposed to and often things that don't quite make sense to them, so its ok for them to try on.

It's also the season for companies to be jockeying for all the PR they can get. "Best toy." says one, "Most wanted toy." says another. Ask the kids, and you might have different answers. Regardless, these items we buy for kids, regardless of age, are facilitators for stories. Most fall short of providing the needed stimuli. They may not be the stories you would expect, but stories that use the products as props in their ever-growing library of experiences.

It is still really disheartening to see articles about how math and reading test scores are way down. Those scores are reflected at the higher grades but are still alarming because reading is so fundamental to everything they will encounter in their lives; reading is critical at the earliest ages possible. Sure, it burdens the educational system heavily to reignite learning post-pandemic, but it starts at home. It begins early in a child's life.

Stories, as we know, are often reflections of daily life and often introduce fantasy options that help grow imaginations. Reading to a young child is absolutely essential. Reading, reading, reading! I have watched pre-readers "read a book" after reading to them repeatedly. Their "reading" is reliving what they heard, and at some point, they start to connect the words, the pictures, and the story itself. They add their own flavor of words, and it becomes magical. That story begins to make them think and connect as to how it might relate to their life. A story about a frog who can't jump may make them laugh but also get them to look around at other animals and see how they might behave. Words connect. What if a cow could fly? They now start to begin to ask, "why?" Why is the foundation of all learning, and if a story can bring an idea forward and help answer a question, it is really powerful.

Stories begin to emerge as an essential part of their learning experience. Once it is established that reading is fun, it can lead to an explosive imagination, and children can begin to tell their own stories, many during play with products. I have often talked about the products and props that enable storytelling. Physical, hands-on products that help tell those stories are all facilitators. But without being read to and listening to stories, the connection and the products are not much of a stimulus at the youngest age.

Worlds open with reading. More and more, as the child connects that words help create images, their thirst for more becomes natural. As they grow older, that fundamental reading skill opens doors to a plethora of learning. Video games aside, reading is the gift that keeps on giving.

So, this holiday season, give them the best and most wanted gift of all: the power of reading!

And have a happy and prosperous New Year.


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