My kids love when I read to them. When my daughter was 6 months old, she requested that I read to her. I had given her a book to look at and started doing something else. She tried to get my attention, but I kept motioning for her to look at the pictures herself. Then she took the book and hit me in the head while mumbling something. I finally got the hint- she wanted me to read to her and wouldn’t accept “No” for an answer.
Reading to your children is so important. There are books and studies galore that talk about the importance of reading to your kids. The main benefits are: bonding between parent and child, increased language skills, increased pre-reading skills, increased learning preparedness and hopefully, a love of reading.
So here are my tips for those with young children:
- START EARLY. I have read to both of my children from the time that they were born. I would show them books, magazine pictures, food labels, etc. and explain what they were. You don’t have to make reading serious or hard.
- BE CONSISTENT. I read to my daughter every night before bed. I just stopped reading to my son at night when he was about to turn 12.
- POINT AND TELL. Point at a picture and tell them what it is.
- POINT AND QUESTION. What is that? You can “read” an entire book just by quizzing them on what they know and sharing the answers.
- LET THEM LEAD. My daughter who is in Pre-K loves to read to me. Even as a baby she would mimic me by looking at the pictures in a book and babbling. She can’t read words yet, but she is content to look at the pictures and make up her own story. If she has a day where she is feeling conformist, she will retell the story as she has heard it.
- SHOW YOUR STUFF. Now is the time to be expressive. If you are not an expressive person dig deep to create even a fake accent or to sing the words set to your own melody. The more that you bring the words to life, the more that your child will be able to create characters in their own mind.
PRAISE is essential.
Every time that your child gets a question right or even turns the page on queue they should receive some form of praise in word or action. If you don’t know what to say, just start clapping and smiling so that they know that they have done a good thing.
CHALLENGE is necessary for growth.
When my son was in first grade, I asked him to spell a word that I had just learned as a grown up. I asked him to spell “pedantic” and he did. I was floored. It taught me that I should always challenge him to see firsthand what he can really do. I found books a few grade levels above where he was to read to him from then on. Sometimes they worked and sometimes he couldn’t get through them, but the key was that every time that he made it through a higher level book his skills and confidence were strengthened. He had some educational testing done earlier this year that placed his reading and comprehension at a college level. I used this lesson for my daughter and as an infant she was able to sit through and pay attention to 2rd grade level books.
BE PATIENT. Seriously- be patient!!!
My daughter does not yet know any sight words. She recognizes letters, but cannot sound out words on her own. I am, however, not worried. My son was the same way. He did not want to read on his own and didn’t start reading on his own until kindergarten. I credit his desire to read now with the fact that I did not force him or put stress on him. Reading was always a reward and an escape from the pressures of his little life- like getting through losing his teeth which caused him to fear that he was dying. Also, it was a cherished routine. Unless your child is behind developmentally in terms of words and recognizing items, I would not worry. Some kids learn to read at 3, but the average child won’t read until about first grade.
You can find more tips on how to read to your child on the Reading is Fundamental website. They have a pamphlet that talks about the benefits of reading aloud to children and some tips on how to do it by age group. I got most of my tips from RIF when my son was young. And from personal experience, I can tell you that they work. Your child will be able to navigate their way through school and life if you help them to develop a love of reading.