Teaching your child the joy of reading is a precious gift only you can bestow. An investment of time for the first few years reaps a lifetime of rewards. Some ways to facilitate that are to:
- choose great books. If you are not much of a reader yourself, visit picture books for the wee ones
- make them readily available. Keep some in the car, in the family room, in your child’s bedroom, and some at Grandma’s house for visiting times.
- start when they are tiny (before they are mobile, so the habit of sitting to read is natural) with a particular book, of one line per page, preferably rhyming, and use it to signify bedtime. They will love the repetition and the security that the routine of reading brings.
- let your child “help” you read. By using rhyming stories to read frequently, your child can anticipate what the ending word will be, and will love to fill in the gap you leave for her.
- you can read anywhere, but having a reading chair to snuggle in (when there is only one child, or two small enough to fit on your lap!) or choosing a particular bed or lounge as the reading spot, adds to the mystery and delight.
- join the library. It is just like going shopping at a free book store!
- be aware that fiction is not everyone’s cup of tea. Your child may appreciate books with information about animals, space craft, dinosaurs, or (very popular at my house) a good bird identification book with lots of colour plates, as well as a field guide to take on holidays. For babies, photos of true life objects are best.
- be sensitive to how much information your child wants per page. If she likes a book, but there is too much print for her to last while you read the page, summarize it!
- help your child make pictures he has drawn into a simple story book. It will be something he can “read” back to you.
- read aloud as a family. When very young children grow up with this as part of normal life, they will happily draw, or do a puzzle if the story is a bit beyond them, all the while enjoying to listen to your voice, soak up new vocabulary, and share family time.
- tell stories when you have to wait in a queue, or while waiting in the car.
- treat books kindly, help your child appreciate the value of a good book.
Some resources will indicate that you should point to the words while reading books to young children, to encourage them to understand the correlation between the print and the words you are reading. I quite strongly disagree with this idea. It is cumbersome (the print is not always at the bottom of the page in children’s books, thereby blocking the pictures), it is distracting, and the child is much better served looking at the (hopefully) glorious illustrations in the book, imagining themselves in the story, than by trying to follow your finger across the print.
They will naturally make the association in time, but if it means a lot to you that they get the connection faster than the average, point out words on cereal packets, toothpaste tubes, and other such mundane places where there is no story to be lost.
Reading opens a world of knowledge and delight to the reader, allows the sharing of experience beyond time and cultures, and admits entrance to the great conversation. What a gift!
Enjoy, and remember……you are what you read!