As a teacher, I believed the most wonderful thing I could do for students was to share my passion for children’s books. As a parent, I was often exhausted after a day in the classroom, sharing that passion! However, my son knew that story time came before bedtime, and he demanded his books if ever I suggested skipping them. I’d like to think I was devoted to being a good parent, but the truth is, I was mostly too tired to argue.
Everyone knows how important it is for kids to learn to read. I believe the single best thing you can do to help your kids learn is read aloud to them. Combine that with some of the tips below, and you’ll be giving your children the very best chance you can.
Tips to Encourage Reading
Make reading aloud to your child a daily habit. Babies can absorb the rhythms and sounds of language and they enjoy your undivided attention. Toddlers can listen, imagine, discuss, look at pictures and acquire pre-reading skills. Older kids can absorb your own enjoyment of a book, participate in reflection and discussion, and wind down before sleep.
Encourage your child to choose a book for your shared read-aloud time. I used to have one book I wanted to read aloud, one book my son wanted to have read to him, and perhaps we would have another one “just because”. We chose from local library books, his bookcase, school library books and caption books, sent home for reading practice once he started school. The latter can be dull if a child can already read, so we would play games with them, make up new stories to fit the pictures, or try to trick each other by using a rhyming word instead of the actual word on the page.
Always read so your child can see the text. Put a toddler on your lap, and hold the book where he can follow your finger sliding under the words, when he wants to. Or lie next to your child, and hold the book so he can see the words.
Have limits on children’s screen-time, so that get plenty of opportunities to run around outside and play creatively. But when you ARE watching TV or movies, turn subtitles on if they’re available. This is a great way for kids to SEE words as they’re being said, and reinforces both reading and spelling. If you have a suitable i-Device, load it with some great interactive book apps – ideal for those moments when you need entertainment and forgot to bring a book.
Include audio books as part of your book choices for home. NOTHING replaces the closeness for a child of snuggling on a parent’s lap with a book, but audio books make a great extra – again, children can SEE the words as they listen, helping them develop reading skills.
Play games with books, and include stories in play with your kids. Games might start as a peek-a-boo with babies, with you covering your face with a book for a moment. They progress to pausing before a rhyming word in an oft-read book to see if your pre-schooler can supply it. Dads are particularly good at the game that has them replacing the real word with a kooky one, producing groans and sometimes a pillow fight from kids. Fairy tales and well-known books also make great fodder for dress-ups and dramatic play – I learnt not to get upset when I was constantly cast as the Evil Queen!
When kids get older, maintain that precious read-aloud time, but encourage kids to “read” their own books too. Having books within children’s reach is important. In my home decoration philosophy, any room needs a bookcase! Encourage quiet reading before bed from when kids are young, and that will become a habit you’ll be grateful for.
Introduce your little one to the library. Libraries are magical places, with new worlds waiting to be discovered inside the covers of books. Make a library visit a regular habit, and get to know librarians as friends.
Keep an eye out for theatre performances, toys and movies based on books and book characters. Kids need to see reading and books as high-status activities and ones that parents love too.
When kids LOVE reading, it becomes something they want to do more and more. Books become their friends and open up new worlds for them. They learn to love words and what we can do with them, which in turn fuels their writing, and all their communication skills.
*** If you’re looking for resources to support your child’s reading, check out my Gallery: Websites that Help Make Reading Fun. You’ll find more ideas at The Book Chook blog in the category, Reading.***