Book Club Discussion with Chicago’s Rose Café
I wrapped up 2022 by doing a book club discussion with Rebecca Silverman and Iesha Malone of Rose Café, a Chicago bookstore that’s donated 10,000 books to the city’s Roseland and Rosemore neighborhoods. The event was memorable to me for our candid discussion of the life-or-death matter of reading, book ownership, reading aloud to kids as stress reducers for parents, and so much more. Here’s a transcript of a few of the questions and answers to give you a taste of our rich discussion.
Rebecca: We mentioned earlier our mission around providing book access, and we give out free books because we believe just in how important it can be for people to just have book ownership, just for kids to see books in the home and for people to, just literally to have them. And I was wondering how you thought that relates to the work that you do and if you agree with that.
Maya: I do. I think it’s really important to have books in the home and for kids to see their parents read. But I think it’s important for parents to talk about the books as well. So have the book. Don’t just let it sit there and collect dust. Read it to them, read it with them, and say “this is the title” and “this is the author.”
There are so many things that we forget that kids have to learn. They have to learn how you turn the pages or which way is right-side-up. They have to learn that the text runs from left to right or from the top to bottom of the page. So even just sometimes, and you don’t have to do it every time you read, but just dragging your finger along the text. All of those things are kind of communicating to the child that the story is coming from the print on the page, not from the pictures. And so as parents and adults who are around children, we just have to break it down a little bit to have the biggest impact.
(See our blog post on how to point out text as you read aloud.)
And there’s something about owning books also. Libraries are wonderful. I’m a huge library advocate and have begun doing some professional development to help librarians better support parents in picking books that are a good fit for their child to help them build the skills they need to grow as readers. But there’s something about having something that’s your own that is really powerful for kids.
Iesha: I am a parent and you did talk about how connecting, nurturing strong oral language is proven for stress reducers for us. … Can you speak to that aspect?
Yes, that came across in one study. I thought that was a really interesting finding because all parents, I believe all parents want to do the best for their children and we don’t always have the support and resources that we need to do that. And so sometimes when we’re focusing on what kids can get out of reading, we don’t give a thought at all to what we’re getting out of it. But there is a part of it when you’re sitting and doing it together and talking about the book and you’re both focused on the same thing, there’s just that warmth and that bond that develops with the parent and the child and you have these memories of all these shared stories. And in stressful times coming out of Covid, parents have a lot on their plates just getting through the day. And so to learn that that time together can kind of settle the parent, ground you a little bit, and have some social-emotional kind of mental health benefits for the parent, I think it’s positive and powerful.
(Check out our blog post on how reading with kids lowers parents’ stress.)
I really like that you included milestones in the book. … But for diverse learning students, students with special needs where they’re not at these milestones, what do you recommend for parents?
Maya: I think parents should be aware of the [milestones] just for their own knowledge and then it also sort of sharpens their observations of what they are seeing and hearing with their child. I encourage parents to do journaling and take notes, because the parent often is the first person to recognize that there’s an issue.
They may not know the technical term for it, but they feel like something isn’t right or the child isn’t where they think that they should be. And so I think it’s important for parents to honor what they’re feeling about where their child is and have some knowledge of the CDC developmental milestones and those things, so that when they go to well-child visits with their pediatrician, they can raise questions, or when they interact with formal school settings.
There are so many resources that parents can be connected to even prior to school for speech issues and all kinds of things, if they know to look out for them and they know to ask for help and support. So I think early—the earlier intervention is better for everything.
So I don’t advocate taking a wait-and-see approach. A lot of people say, “oh, it just takes some kids longer.” You don’t have to stress about it, but I think you should observe it and ask questions and start to get a feel for what resources are available in your community and what specialists you might be able to get referrals to.