One of many gifts parents can give their children is the love of reading. The ability to read well opens up a world of learning and opportunities that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Being read to as a child also gives people happy memories of their early years. Thankfully, reading to youngsters is not some esoteric skill reserved for a few – it is available to the masses. Here are some pointers to help you, as a parent or caregiver, get started.
Start Reading Aloud Early
It is a good idea to begin reading to little ones from an early age onward. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises pediatricians to encourage parents to read aloud to their kids, from infancy up to at least kindergarten age. According to the AAP, reading aloud to children early on helps give them a lasting boost in literacy. So, give your children a great start. Make reading aloud a habit from day one.
Read a Bedtime Story
Many families cherish this ritual, and with good reason. It establishes a routine for reading together. Your kids expect it and reading becomes a part of daily life. Bedtime storytelling also gives parents an opportunity to relax and spend time with their kids after a busy day, even for only a few minutes. Choose tales that are appropriate for night-time reading for your family. Generally, it should be relaxing, pleasant and imaginative. Select books with tasteful language and illustrations.
Read Age Appropriate Books
University of Michigan recommends small board books for babies, as well as lift-the-flap and textured books that they can explore. Keep reading sessions brief while their attention span is still quite short. Gradually increase both the length and complexity of books as your children mature. Many books have reading level indicators to help guide parents in choosing the right titles. Experience will show you how much your kids can listen to at what age.
Find Books that Match your Kids’ Interests
Reading is more enjoyable when it is about something you like. Go to the library or bookstore together and help your kids find books on their favorite subjects. Choose titles that are appropriate for your child’s age and reading level. Children will quickly discover the value of reading when they see it helps them learn more about their favorite things.
Share a Love of the Library
The library should be a frequent stop for your family. Go to the children’s area of your local library and read books together. Once a child is old enough, apply for a card for him or her and demonstrate how to use it. Use your library accounts responsibly. Check out a reasonable number of books and always return them on time. Teach your kids to handle borrowed items with care and respect.
Become an Avid Reader Yourself
Children imitate their parents and guardians. The best way to teach kids to love reading is by example. So turn off the television, get away from the computer and pick up a classic. Okay, it does not have to be Moby Dick. But you want your kids to see you read worthwhile stuff, right?
Discuss what you Read in Books
Don’t just read. Talk about what you are reading. Point at pictures and ask little ones what they see. Play “look and find.” Ask an older child questions about a story and its characters to help develop their comprehension skills. Why was Cinderella in a hurry to leave the ball? How did the prince find her again in the end? Encourage your child to think about the story and the characters, and ask questions of their own.
Stick with Repetition
Kids love repetition– parents are only too aware of this fact. Your little ones are bound to have favorite stories that they will ask to hear over and over, and that is fine. Devon Corneal of Read Brightly says this has several benefits for kids. The more often kids hear the same story, the more familiar they become with the words and phrases, and the more fluent they become. Reading the same story multiple times also allows them to deepen their understanding of its characters and events.
Reading shouldn’t be a one-way street. Make it a shared activity. Encourage your listeners to read with you. Choose simple phrases in large, clear print for younger kids. Take turns with characters’ dialogue. As they develop into more skillful readers, they will be able to read longer, more advanced text.
Keep Reading even to Older Kids
Why stop reading to a first-grader? Yes, your growing child may be reading fluently on his or her own now. But that is no reason to stop reading to them, or with them. After all, children continue to develop literacy beyond the first couple of school years. “A child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until eighth grade,” says Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook. “You can and should be reading seventh grade books to fifth grade kids. They’ll get excited about the plot and this will be a motivation to keep reading.”
Reading is something one never outgrows. Long after you have stopped reading to your kids, they will still be reaping the benefits. Start reading to your child today and watch them discover one of the great joys in life.