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Holiday memories and the benefits of early literacy!

Winter Break, cozy evenings, holiday traditions; December is the perfect time to enjoy stories together. From traditional books passed down through generations to new titles, mark the occasion with special storytimes.

Children are never too young to benefit from early literacy, which creates quality time through a shared experience. Reading also sharpens cognitive skills, improves vocabulary and reinforces academic skills throughout the lifespan.

While electronics tend to make an appearance at school breaks and the latest gadgets may be wrapped under the tree, national literacy organization’s new slogan, “There is no app to replace your lap” reminds caregivers of their essential role. “Reading aloud is the single most important thing you can do to help a child prepare for reading and learning,” the organization asserts.

Early exposure to books boosts language acquisition, helps children grasp grammar, spelling and phonics and ties together the role of illustration and plot. Reading comprehension and overall success in school are bolstered by being read aloud to from a young age, in addition to making it more likely children will become independent readers and lifelong learners.

Creating a positive bonding experience through the joy of a shared story also enhances positive socio-emotional connections essential to forming pathways in the brain. Read-aloud sessions in early childhood, especially before age 3, capitalize on the period with the fastest neurological development but students continue to reinforce school skills through real-world practice. Just 15 minutes of reading each day is enough to spark interest in the world, create a love of reading and pass along all the inherent benefits of early literacy.

Try these three methods to make reading part of your daily routine this holiday season:

Plan a trip to the library: Check out classics as well as new stories. In addition to the academic benefits of reading, teaching children about diverse traditions, including Chanukkah’s Festival of Lights, the nativity story, winter solstice and others, enhances their worldview.

Exchange favorite books: Family members of all ages can exchange books or take turns reading aloud. Make time for visions of sugarplums, which are referenced in “The Nutcracker” and “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” remember the story of the holly and the ivy and find out the history of the balsam fir or other traditions from older relatives’ childhoods. Let younger members of the family share their favorite new picture books or novels. Trade books and host a family reading hour, chat around the table or create a new bedtime ritual via FaceTime if relatives are staying home this year.

Give the gift of reading: Make books part of your holiday gift tradition. Consider an Advent-style tradition of counting down to the holiday by wrapping books and opening one each day leading up to the holiday. Plan a post-holiday outing to a local bookshop and start the new year with new reads. Our Resource Center, a membership-based lending library with books, toys and games, will expand its hours with Saturday visits available by appointment in January. Get details here.

Bonus: Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library recently expanded services to Oklahoma County. All families with children under age 5 are eligible to receive one free book by mail each month. Get details and sign up here.

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