Let’s face it, reading is IMPORTANT... could you go an hour without needing to read something (an e-mail, a medication bottle, a recipe, a text message, a bill, etc)? We read constantly throughout the day and the literacy skills that we have as adults began in our childhood. As parents, we must instill an importance in reading in our children from as early of an age as possible as children do not have to know how to read to get a benefit from reading.
Reading helps us learn many different aspects of language. It builds our understanding of language as well as our ability to name and talk about our environment. Through reading we also learn about humor, sarcasm, adventure and make-believe. We further build our skills in listening, rhyming, problem solving and sequencing. Children begin to realize that reading can get them the information they need and want. It also builds their imagination as every story sends them off on a new adventure full of wonder and far off places. Who knew reading could do so much!!
Parents can begin reading to their children as early as 6 months old. Infants learn best through gesturing, facial expression and singing, so incorporate these into the way you are reading a book to make it more interesting for them. They will eventually recognize that words have specific meaning and will learn new vocabulary by looking at the pictures in the book as you name them.
As they grow into toddlers, parents can also point out the colors, actions and shapes that they see. Have your child help you count up all the cats on the page or talk about how the characters are feeling to develop their knowledge of emotion words like “sad, happy, and frustrated”.
As toddlers grow into preschoolers they begin to “read” the story by talking about the pictures that they see and can often anticipate what might happen next in familiar books. Ask questions about how the character might be feeling after something happens to them in the story. As they get closer to kindergarten, children may begin sounding words out on their own. There may even be some small words that they can recognize by sight.
Encourage positive reading experiences by choosing books that have themes that your child enjoys and allow them to be as involved as they want to be. If your child doesn’t have the attention span to sit and listen to the book then join them on the floor while they play and read out loud to them. Use changes in your voice and tone to peek their interest. They may only briefly look up at you when you do this, but before you know it they are spending more and more of the time sitting with you while you read.
Reading to your children should be a part of everyday. Listed below are some tips to help you get started. By building your child’s reading skills, you are directly improving their success in school. Give your child the boost they need to be successful and read to your child today!!
When reading to your child it is important to...
- Choose books that are interesting to your child and increase their interest by changing your voice and using intonation. Be enthusiastic!! Allow them to abandon a book that they are not interested in reading at the moment.
- Read to your child every day…if you know that you won’t be able to read to your child one night then double up the next night. Use down time waiting at the doctor’s office or in between the innings at your other child’s baseball game.
- Point to the words as you read them. This helps kids recognize what different words look like. You can also point out the letters that the words start with if you are teaching letter recognition.
- Choose predictable, repetitive books for toddlers and chapter books for school age kids.
- Talk to your child about what is going on in the story; when they are old enough, ask questions to see if they know what is going to happen next. Explain feelings and humor as your child may not fully understand them just through reading the story.
Here are some fun and interactive websites to help your children build their literacy skills: