By Karen Percak, Librarian and Media Specialist at GEMS World Academy-Chicago

As family and teachers, we sometimes wonder how to spark a love for books and help a child develop a reading attitudeAs an elementary school library media specialist, I face that reality daily. A love of reading grows as your child grows, and needs loving care and nurturing along the way.  Some parents find it natural to read to their young babies and toddlers.  Snuggling in bed with a good book before bedtime often is at the heart of parenting rituals.  Yet, it is important to remember that as parents we need to read to our children long after they can read to themselves.

For many, reading a book aloud has become a calm part of the day, a strong family sharing time, or an opportunity to hear classic stories and the beauty of written language long before we are willing or able to pick up that challenging read.  Families can bond over their love of a character, an author’s writing style, or the next great adventure in our favorite series.  You might have to read that favorite book until it is worn thin, but you will never regret the time spent. 

Reach for your favorite children's book and read it aloud for your child.  They will love the expressive language you bring to the book.  Conversation about the story or the new things a nonfiction book teaches us may become food for conversation in those early morning moments or end of the day quiet times.

When coming to the library at school, children often ask for help in finding a book. When gazing into the vast sea of books around them, they are sometimes overwhelmed by the process of selecting a book. Since GEMS World Academy is a newer school with a fresh set of attendees, I spend a lot of time talking with and observing students to get to know their browsing style. What books are they gravitating towards? What makes them pick a book off the shelf? Which sections are the most popular? When asked for help, my response has often been in the form of a question about what kind of things they enjoy: What makes you laugh? Do you like animals or adventure?   Do you have a favorite book or author?

These questions open the door for conversation and help me find something that won’t just hook them into the book, but into the bigger reading world. I want children to develop a “relationship” with books and that means exploring their favorites and coming to rely on them, but it also means risking time with something new and having opportunities to explore our new “tastes.”

Allow your children to do some of that exploring with you.  Read them your favorite as a child.  Find a classic children’s book that they might not pick up for themselves. You know your child well and you trust your instincts.

As Maya Angelou said, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” 

librarian_headshotKaren Percak has a BA in Biology from Lawrence University, a Masters in Special Education, and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership. She is a National Board Certified Librarian and specializes in technology integration, focusing for years on incorporating technology at the libraries where she has worked. In 1998, Karen was named an Apple Distinguished Educator and has travelled the world extensively to participate actively in the ADE network.

Karen enjoys the hands-on nature of scientific research and looks to pass this passion onto her students. She loves to show them how to express their creativity through multimedia projects and explore, investigate, discover, and share. Karen finds that, although GEMS World Academy-Chicago is a new school, it already offers what she believes to be the ideal classroom: one where exploration of the world is student-driven, where students ask questions, and where they are accompanied by the tools they need to explore and supportive and experienced teachers to guide them.

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