This past weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the Connecticut Children’s Book Fair at the University of Connecticut. I love this fair because it is not only an opportunity to buy more books and pick up holiday gifts, it is an opportunity to meet some of the authors. I attended several presentations and all were wonderful. However, I would especially like to share some information I learned during the presentation given by Rosemary Wells. I feel the information she shared with attendees is just too important not to pass on.
I am sure many of you know Rosemary Wells. She has had a forty-five year career as an author/illustrator with 145 books published, including such classics as the Max and Ruby and McDuff series.
To start off her presentation, Ms. Wells showed an exciting new video of an MRI showing the connections a child’s brain makes when a mother or father reads to their baby. When the parent reads to the baby, the neural connections simply light up everywhere! And what this even more important is that these connections are permanent; the brain actually makes permanent growth. Now here is the scary part. After the age of six, this type of growth is not possible. The child’s brain NEVER develops to full capacity if you start reading to them after the age of six. (If you haven’t been reading to them earlier, you should still start. It does mean, however, that they won’t reach what their full potential might have been.) These studies show that reading to your child is “singly the most important thing a parent can do.” This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep right on reading after age six. Of course you should – for as long as they will listen. But the earlier you start, the better.
After that exciting video and news, she showed a presentation that she often gives for school audiences: How I Put Together a Book. It was a very interesting presentation, but once again she shared some news that I felt should be passed on to readers. Today’s children have very low fine motor skills. She attributed this to the fact that children have too many screens in their lives. Although this was not scientifically proven, she is probably right. Additionally, she shared an exercise that she does every morning. For ten minutes she colors in a piece of artwork making sure to get it perfect (a coloring book would suit for young artists). She works with a steady hand and a sharp eye, focusing quietly and completely on the work. “When I can draw a straight line without a ruler, I know I have a steady hand and sharp eye.” What a wonderful activity! It gives practice, helps focus and develops discipline. Perhaps this is the way everyone should start their day.