The NAEYC Position Statement (2003) references the importance of providing opportunities for children to relate their own life experiences to literature; all to increase interest in the reading material and provide a meaningful learning experience. Recently, I had two encounters with this, and hope that sharing these experiences will help to reflect on ways that you can also help adults and children make meaningful connections through the use of literature.
My story begins last spring when my daughter-in-law had to put down her beloved 21-year-old Siamese cat, Shadow. I wanted to let my daughter know I was grieving with her, so I researched books and found a great storybook, Grannyman, by Judy Schachner. The book tells a story about how an old Siamese cat didn’t feel he had any purpose left in life until his family brought home a new Siamese kitten. Grannyman soon realized he must mentor the kitten and teach him the ways of the world. When I presented it to my daughter, she was so thrilled because many of the antics of the cat in the books reminded her of her cat, Shadow. We talked for a long time with her sharing many fond memories of her pet.
Last summer, we found out that our son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first child. With a baby on the way, I thought this would be a great opportunity to get them another book by the same author- Skippy jon Jones.
I chose to purchase these books because they reflect one aspect of the “culture” at my son and daughter-in-law’s house. They had an old Siamese cat and still have many pictures of him displayed in their house. Now, they adopted a new Siamese cat who will be growing up with their child. By having these books to read, they will help their child make relevant connections between reading and real life.
Whether you are a teacher in an early childhood classroom, a parent, or grandparent, and want to provide literacy opportunities for those in your care, look to the culture within the home and find books and materials that directly relate to what that child is experiencing. The books can be factual or fiction, and for young children it is best to have them depict real people and animals that are familiar to the child.
The next time you want to make a connection with someone, why not do it with a book? I can’t wait to help my grandsons develop their literacy skills by reading books to them that have meaning and relevance in their lives.