BOUNTIFUL — Give children books and you give them the world.
That’s the message of Rosemary Wells, the author and illustrator of the “Max and Ruby” books. She’s coming to the South Branch Library on March 1 for two different book signings, at 5:15 p.m. and 8:15 p.m., and a presentation at 6 p.m. that will be repeated at 7:15 p.m. Both presentations will focus on how important books and art are to children’s development.
“We now know, via exhaustive research and viewable MRI scans of children’s brains, that nothing succeeds in stimulating brain development in children like storytelling and reading aloud,” said Wells. “New neural synapses, connecting like lightening in children’s brains, during read-aloud time, can actually be seen with the human eye.”
That beneficial brain development starts right away, and even infants as young as three months old can benefit from being read to.
“Babies soak up stories like sponges,” said Wells. “Their language enlarges by leaps and bounds. Their critical reasoning thrives permanently. Reading aloud, inclusive storytelling and constant positive talk can lead a baby from an otherwise needy family to be the equal of any child on earth.”
If you start reading to them early and consistently enough, you can have a positive effect on the whole rest of their lives.
“Read to your bunny (child) every day in the first five years of life and your child will face a level playing field in kindergarten,” she said. “The window closes, alas, at around 6 years old and children struggle to learn after that. So fill up early and often. Every day, 20 minutes. Never stop. Never miss a day.”
She also urges parents to never forget printed books, no matter how many e-books they take advantage of in their own lives.
“Reading aloud to young children from real books, not screens or tablets, causes them to love the book itself as a magic carpet,” she said. “A lifetime of adventure inside every good book awaits them.”
Ideally, they’ll start looking for the stories on their own. Wells encourages families to take advantage of the many books available for all age levels at the local library.
“A child finds different views and different lives from all over our world at their fingertips in the library,” she said. “Reading makes children look for more books as they grow up and find themselves in the stories.”
They also sometimes see things in the books that even adults don’t. When she’s met them at events such as these, Wells said that her readers understand far more about the world of stories than their parents sometimes realize.
“No matter how prepared I think I may be, young readers always surprise me,” she said. “They ask questions where I may not know the answers. But they make me think, and this leads me down new pathways.”
She added that the best children’s books can have the same effect, and are worth exploring no matter how old we are.
“Children’s literature, when created by the great writers and artists, is the equal of any adult literature on our book store shelves,” said Wells. “It contains the nutmeats of truth we seek in adult literature, which very often takes much longer to say the same things.”
The South Branch Library is located at 725 S. Main Street in Bountiful. The doors open at 4:30 p.m. the night of the event, and seating is first-come, first-served.