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World Book Day—First Books, Lasting Memories

By Jay Connor

A book which truly captures a child’s imagination never leaves them. Titles such as When You Give a Mouse a Cookie or Goodnight Moon. Book series such as The Boxcar Children Mysteries, The Berenstain Bears or the Harry Potter epic saga. Authors such as Dr. Seuss, Roald Dahl and Judy Blume. Repeatedly, these and other classics of children’s literature enthrall our kids and motivate them to continue reading throughout their lives.

That’s why, on April 23rd, it’s important to celebrate World Book Day, sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and salute the creators who spin spellbinding stories which keep readers of all ages turning the pages until the very end.

At Learning Ovations, we’re proud of our A2i system’s success rate in giving our K-3 kids the tools they need to elevate their level of reading proficiency. Education, however, is only half the equation—often, it’s a very special book which really sparks a child’s interest in pushing their reading skills. And that makes our job so much easier.

At dinner the other night, we discussed the specific books which transitioned our own three children from passive bedtime story listeners to active and engaged readers. Jessica's was The Petite Prince, Kerianne's was The Velveteen Rabbit, and Pat's was Jurassic Park—three very different books, three very different personalities but one wonderful result: we ended up with three dedicated readers.

Because I traveled for work quite a bit while the children were young, I must give my wife Carol credit where credit is due—she was the one who was totally responsible for instilling the love of reading through a regular bedtime reading routine. However, I took full advantage of the special occasions when I was able to be the one delivering the words to their receptive ears.

I especially remember with fondness the nights at our family cabin at Lake Arrowhead, when I went beyond just reading their favorite books to actually acting out the characters. The kids enjoyed my performances almost as much as I did—although I will admit Carol was a bit concerned I was getting the kids a little too amped up for bedtime. Still, she was supportive and allowed my inner ham to shine, for which I’m still grateful.

Besides, my theatrical hijinks did create an amazing tradition. I was thrilled to witness our children, each in their own time and with their own book, begin to replicate my own performances, first in supporting roles and then, when they had developed the confidence, finally taking the spotlight. When they reached that point, it was clear they owned their reading—and it spurred them on to constantly find joy in new books.

Watching their passion for reading bloom rekindled my own. And it also inspired my work at Learning Ovations over the years. It’s amazing to think I’m in a position to help other kids experience the magic of reading through our company’s literacy programs.

Of course, on this special day, I must tip my hat to the incredible imaginations of the children’s authors of yesterday and today. They’re the gifted storytellers who are really responsible for getting kids hooked on reading. As a Washington Post article put it, “The only way to hook children on reading for pleasure is to allow them to read for pleasure.”

In our never-ending pursuit of improving our children’s literacy proficiency, we must never forget it’s not just about the educational systems and mechanics—it’s also about the unadulterated delight sparked in a child’s eye as they turn the page to find out just what happens…when you give a mouse a cookie.

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