Dobbins Reads to Children at University’s Child Enrichment Center


Events Kicks Off Month of the Young Child

Photo of Dr. Dobbins reading to the children.

President Dobbins reads to the children at Southeast Missouri State University’s Child Enrichment Center last week.(View a larger image of the reading.)


April 4, 2006 – The Napping House isn’t standard reading for Southeast Missouri State University President Kenneth W. Dobbins.

But a special event at the University’s Child Enrichment Center last week placed the book at the top of his reading list.

Dobbins read the book to pre-schoolers at the Center Friday to kick off the Month of the Young Child that began on Saturday. The “Month of the Young Child” is designed to recognize the needs of young children and thank educators and others involved in the education and care of young children. The Month of the Young Child is celebrated across the country by hundreds of local organizations working to improve opportunities for all young children.

“It was really exciting to visit with these pre-schoolers. They all wanted to participate and be as close to the book as possible,” Dobbins said. “They also enjoyed the Girl Scout cookies at the end of the reading.”

Saturday was also International Children’s Book Day. Since 1967, this celebration has been on or around Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday. The day is celebrated to inspire a love of reading and to call attention to children’s books.

Dobbins’ wife, Jeanine Larson Dobbins, is the coordinator of the Missouri Statewide Early Literacy Intervention Program based at Southeast. Reading to children, she says, helps them to develop a love for the process of sharing stories, rhymes, rhythms and jokes.

Beginning to read to children at a very young age is important, Mrs. Dobbins says.

“The more we learn about child development, it’s safe to say reading to children cannot begin too early,” she said.

While some parents begin reading to their baby while still in the uterus, “You certainly should begin to read at birth by interacting with your baby,” Mrs. Dobbins said.

That’s why Mrs. Dobbins is a proponent of Phi Kappa Phi honor society at Southeast and its ongoing “Born to Read” program. This initiative is a cooperative literacy effort that began in early 2001 and puts a new book into the hands of every newborn baby at Southeast Missouri Hospital and Saint Francis Medical Center. Under the program, every newborn receives a new Little Golden Book upon their departure from the hospital. In addition and in cooperation with the local hospitals, Phi Kappa Phi Chapter 260 provides parents of each newborn with information on the importance of reading in a child’s life and ways to make reading an essential part of their family life.

She says reading or reciting stories of all kinds, especially nursery rhymes is crucial for young children.

“The sound of them is so delightful,” she said. “Too many children have not heard nursery rhymes by the time they start kindergarten.”

Young children should also hear their favorite songs and lullabies so they can start hearing what language sounds like, she said.

“Reading to children helps them with their language development,” Mrs. Dobbins said.

She says parents or family members should put young children on their lap or have them close at their side while reading to them. This, she says, creates a circle of love. This circle of love helps children develop a love for reading, she adds.

Also, while parents are reading to children, children can learn important concepts such as where the front of a book is located, how to turn the pages, and how to read from left to right and from top to bottom. Young children also come to understand that stories have a beginning, middle and end.

“Children who don’t have these opportunities lack important experiences before they ever get to kindergarten,” she said.

Mrs. Dobbins says it’s important for children to develop a love for favorite stories and for family members to read and reread those stories to them.

“By reading favorite books, parents are acknowledging that their children have made a choice,” she said. “This gives children a feeling that their opinions are valued.”

She says children who are read to early in life learn to enjoy stories and silly poems. Reading, she adds, fosters the development of a child’s imagination. Choosing stories children can relate to also is important, she says, because children learn to identify with characters like and unlike themselves.

“Children begin to understand stories at an extremely young age – younger than we give them credit for,” Mrs. Dobbins said. “Children bring their experiences to a story. They learn to relate to many different characters. They also love rhyme, rhythm and repetition.”

For parents wanting information on reading to their child, she suggests they check out The New Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease.

“This is a good resource for parents,” she said.

She also offers the following tips to parents for reading with their child:

  • Let the child choose a book he or she wants to hear.
  • If the child has a short attention span, choose short books. If the child has a longer attention span, choose longer books.
  • Be sure to choose some books that you enjoy reading.
  • Talk about the pictures.
  • Read with expression.
  • Follow the child’s lead – laugh when the child laughs.
  • Let it be fun.
  • Ask the child about their favorite part of the story.
  • Make the time spent reading with your child a circle of love.

Mrs. Dobbins recommends the following 10 “must-reads” for pre-school age children:

  • Where’s Spot
  • A Nursery Rhyme book
  • The Poky Little Puppy
  • Goodnight Moon
  • The Snowy Day
  • Owl Moon
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • The Three Little Pigs
  • Make Way for Ducklings
  • The Little Engine That Could

President Dobbins’ reading of The Napping House to kicked off the Month of the Young Child at Southeast Missouri State University.(View a larger image of Dobbins and the Children.)