Shaping minds, changing lives

By Gabbi Johnson

Gabbi Johnson is a senior and writes for The Talon newspaper. She enjoys to dance, read and write. As well as taking dance classes and performing, she also teaches classes for younger students. Her favorite genres to read are fantasy and fiction.

Posted: December 17, 2014

Reading children’s books is worth more than just entertainment, as children learn and grow through simple children’s tales

When you talk about influencing people you’re much better off influencing children to be positive members of society than adults,” said David Adler, the author of the Cam Jansen Mystery series. “Because with adults you can affect what they do, but with a young child you can affect the way they think.”

Many children are raised with books as a large part of their lives. First, parents read to them at bedtime. Then, eventually, they read together but not long after that the child is reading on his or her  own. Books that are read as a child can have long lasting impacts and influence on a person, both in subtle and profound ways.

“My favorite book when I was in elementary school was Charlotte’s Web,” said Jody Feldman, author of The Gollywhopper Games. “Charlotte’s Web actually created for me a lifelong love for spiders.” To this day, Feldman is intrigued by spiders, loves to watch them weave their webs and would never dream of killing one, simply because of the E.B. White  book she read as a child.

Once a child discovers a passion for something because of a book, a snowball effect will most likely take place, and they will continue to read more and more about whatever topic they found interesting, explained Feldman. But children aren’t the only ones who are affected by children’s books.

“I remember [my son] laughing so hard at this [scene in a book] and thinking, ‘that must be so cool to think about a child reading one of my books and laughing over it’,” said author of Puddle Pug, Kimberly Norman. She sees the joy of laughter coming out of books not only as a gift for the child, but also an accomplishment of the author to be able to brighten a child’s day.

“Books are a way that kids really start to understand the world and themselves, so I really think that books we read as kids can have a very big impact on our lives,” said local author John Coy. One of his goals in writing is to encourage children to read about what they enjoy. Coy writes many books involving sports targeted at elementary age boys.

Two of Coy’s favorite picture book as a child were The Day Daddy Stayed Home by Ethel Kessler in which a little boy’s dad stays home from work on a snow day to play with him. The other was Go, Dog, Go by P.D Eastman where these dogs drive to all different places, but they simply love to be in the car together.

“I love, I love travel and I’m sure that part of that goes all the way back to Go, Dog, Go,” said Coy. He also values time spent between father and son as seen in The Day Daddy Stayed Home.

Minnehaha alumni Peter Pearson (’98), who is currently working on a children’s book agreed, “When you’re younger, you know, you’re really open to the world, you just sort of take a lot in and you don’t necessarily know how everything works.”

Not only can a book change how a child thinks, but how they learn. Reading to a child helps them learn to read, comprehend and write more effectively later in life.

“My older son… was a struggling reader, but he benefited so much from [our] reading to him everyday from when he was a tiny baby until he was 11, 12 years old,” said Norman. As he got a little older she began to read him the first books of the Harry Potter series and soon after he finished the series on his own. Norman believes being read aloud to was what truly impacted his ability to read and write. Norman also spent her childhood pouring into books.

“Having read so much  [as a child] taught me how to write. Just like anything, it taught me about sentence structure, about flow and rhythm,” said Norman.

As children are growing and learning about themselves and the world in which they live, there are many ways they take in information. Books contribute to children’s learning in a deep way.

There is one children’s author who stands out in many people’s minds. What do elephants hatching eggs, Yertle the Turtle and Truffula trees all have in common? Theodor Geisel, or more commonly known as Dr. Seuss. In the midst of a cat wearing a hat, the Grinch stealing Christmas and what was seen on Mulberry street, he was able to sneak profound and meaningful statements into his books.

William Porter, writer for the Denver Post, argued, “Dr. Seuss influenced nearly every living American who ever learned to read.” Even if the books didn’t change the way someone saw the world, at least they could put a smile on someone’s face. Dr. Seuss stressed imagination, humor and honesty. As children turn the vibrant pages, it is not likely they will walk away unchanged, said Porter.

As Dr. Seuss wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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