Raising a resilient child begins at an early age. Books give children a rich vocabulary of words they can use in expressing their own thoughts and feelings. My husband and I read to our children from infancy, beginning with picture books of rhythm and rhyme. Then we moved on to picture story books, chapter books, and children’s classics. At bedtime my husband would read to one child, while I would read to the other.
Reading requires looking, listening, and thinking, and develops all these skills through practice. Once children learn to see, they can see to learn. Once they learn to listen, they can listen in order to learn. And, once they learn to read, they can read to learn. These skills are empowering.
When our children were able to read on their own, we listened as they would read aloud to us. When they got tired of reading aloud, we would take over and read some engaging fiction that was well beyond their reading level, exposing them to more advanced vocabulary and emotional situations. By reading aloud, fluently and expressively, we were able to model effective communication skills to our children. Reading teaches empathy. Studies conducted at The New School in New York City show evidence that literary fiction improves a reader’s capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling. Children learn from stories about how other children handle life challenges. By reading books that share the stories and beliefs of children raised in different cultures, we can expose our own children to a wider range of experiences and perspectives, and to higher levels of imagined and unimagined intelligence. These stories lead us to learn the more advanced vocabulary of empathy, compassion, respect, collaboration, and resilience, so we can model these practices for one another.
While referring to God in my children’s book, The Angel Heart, I must acknowledge and respect those who believe in different forms of spirit – god or goddess, guardian angels, Mother Nature, Father Sky, Great Spirit, The Force, or perhaps a collective entity. Some people think this is all hogwash, and so be it. Telling the story of a real, yet magical, flower, I provide clues that suggest the presence of a mysterious creative and benevolent source that provides for us and watches over us. Faith in this higher power helps us to cultivate spiritual wisdom, strength, love and peace within ourselves, which we can then share to help make a better world.
I am toying with the idea of more spiritually inclusive version of The Angel Heart, at a lower price point and with supplemental material for parents and teachers. Until then, however, my original book and e-book can be found for purchase by clicking here, and my Natural Awakenings magazine article about Emotional Literacy can be found here.