Last fall, I took an introductory flight lesson. As I taxied down the runway and then took off, the controls firmly in hand, I was amazed to discover that I could actually fly the plane! As I looked down on the familiar landscape from my vantage point in the pilot’s seat, I remembered the opening line from one of my favorite childhood books, I Can Fly, written by Ruth Krauss. In it, the very young heroine proudly exclaims, “A bird can fly. So can I.”
As exhilarating as that flight lesson was, I think I was equally amazed that I still remember text and illustrations in a book that was read to me long before I entered kindergarten.
Understanding the power of a book to fuel our imaginations and inspire our dreams is one of the reasons I became a children’s librarian, a teacher and now the editor of High Five™ magazine and Highlights Hello™ magazine, our new publication for infants and toddlers. My hope is that some of the stories and poems in Highlights Hello will be remembered long after the teddy bears, blankets and bottles are put away.
Recently, I was talking with a friend who was pregnant with her first child. She listened with a very puzzled look as I babbled on about our new magazine. Finally, she said, “But why are you making a magazine for infants?” We know her question is one that many new parents will ask,and we have a number of experts in the field of early literacy who will help us answer it.
Nancy Balaban, co-founder of the Bank Street College of Education’s Infancy Institute, answers my friend’s question this way: “Why read to a baby? Because babies understand the words they hear long before they are able to say them. They are learning language. And as they listen to the sound of your voice as you read, your little one is learning that reading and loving come from the same source—you.”
And Robert Needlman, M.D., a pediatrician and co-founder of Reach Out and Read, says: “Why do babies come to love books? Because they love their mommies and daddies! Every time you cuddle up with your baby to read a book, you infuse the book with all of the good feelings of being close. Books come to have two meanings: they mean whatever the story is about, and they also mean love and togetherness.”
Do you have a favorite book from your childhood, one that is infused with the kind of warm feelings our experts describe? Or one that, like mine, convinced you that you could fly? Let us know!