Trish is back with another great post on engaging your child in reading. Want some great ideas that go along with this post? Go ahead and take a look at our Raising Readers Pinterest board.
I must confess: I love to read. My first part-time job in high school was a dream. I was a “page” at our local public library. I realised when I was re-shelving books in the Children’s Section, just how many stories I had read and enjoyed over the years and how my love of literature had been encouraged very early in my life by my parents. One of the great joys of my career as an educator has been to source and stock my classroom with unique, high-quality reading materials and then share these books with my students and their families.
Nurturing a love of reading with your child from a very young age can have incredible, far-reaching benefits. Tapping into the power of literature means that you are helping to open the world for your child. Reading is both educational and entertaining. As your kids enter school, you will see that reading is an intrinsic part of cross-curricular development: drama, physical education, music, and the arts. So reading encourages growth in all areas of development. How to get started on this exciting adventure can seem overwhelming to new parents, and questions are understandable and welcome.
When to Introduce Your Child to the World of Books
It is never too early, or too late, to introduce your child to the wonderful world of books. You, as parents, can begin from birth to make “reading” a story part of your children’s waking up, pre-nap, night-time, and any time routines. For those of you with more than one baby, we started reading to Ashleigh’s twins when they were newborns. We placed them side by side in their crib on their backs (and slightly raised up, using their boppy pillows), and stood in front of them with a book held out between them (librarian/teacher manner). Even as infants, they were reaching out to touch the books and “help” turn the pages. Try having your infant in your arms, as you read a simple, familiar storybook that has good basic language, attractive and engaging pictures, and made with sturdy stock paper/cardboard (think of “board” books).
Reading provides all of us with information and entertainment. It fuels our imagination and prompts enquiry into this spectacular world we live. By reading a variety of materials with our little ones, we begin to gain insight into our child’s preferences (what style of a book does your child prefer? What stories are his/her favourites? Does your child like bright colours and accurate pictures or more modern art renderings?). As always, though, it is best to ensure you have a range of different kinds of books (fiction/non-fiction/picture/story/humour, etc.) to explore.
It has been a delight to watch my nephew’s son as he has begun to “crack the code”. He has always enjoyed books and having stories read to him. He delights in reading everything from dinosaur facts to Pete the Cat stories. Now he has figured out that words have meaning, that books can entertain and inform, and that he is a beginning reader. Reading has given him a tremendous sense of self-confidence as he has begun to discover that reading is a portal: to new worlds, to new information, to his imagination. This attitude towards reading didn’t happen overnight. The love for reading is a journey that was years in the making, and it began just after his birth.
The Benefits of Reading With Your Child
Reading builds an emotional connection. It is a time of bonding with your child, to let the cares of the world fall away as you make a routine of reading with your little one. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy other times through the day, or night when you read together, but it does mean that the familiarity of a quiet reading routine (night-time or pre-nap) will become a much-loved one-on-one time together. It nurtures a sense of familiarity, closeness, safety, and comfort.
Reading facilitates social connections. In nursery school, day care, primary school, library circle, there will be many opportunities for children to respond to a variety of materials read aloud. In fact, there will be chances to participate in choral reading, acting plays to books they’ve read (The Three Bears is a favourite), singing songs based on books, exploring big books with their peers, and talking about what they’ve read. All these beneficial social connections can start with that one-to-one reading time between parent and child.
Reading fosters the development of communication skills. Whether it’s rhymes, poems, short stories, pattern books, chapter books, plays, information texts, and songs; reading encourages every aspect of language. Try asking questions about what you’ve read (“What do you think will happen next?”). Identify letters and the sounds they make. Acquiring a bank of sight words, figuring out new words, and learning how to pronounce a range of words stimulates receptive and expressive language, builds vocabulary, promotes correct pronunciation, teaches intonation, volume, rhythm, fluidity. Children learn that language conveys meaning.
Reading helps to develop the acquisition of important foundational concepts. Just think of how good quality books expose your child to the world of colours, sounds, shapes, animals, sizes, alike/different, basic vocabulary, the alphabet, numbers, people and places in our community, and on and on. Being exposed to literature at a young age helps children in school activate their prior knowledge when experiencing unfamiliar texts. For example, your child enjoyed books about firefighters, and when your little one is learning about Community Helpers in school, he/she will be able to bring prior knowledge to make connections with new learning about emergency responders.
Reading encourages focus and memory. During reading time, you can ask questions and discuss small or large details, the main idea of the story (or major themes for older children), and the sequence (including what was the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story). Young children love to retell and act out stories in their own words.
When You’re Reading
When you’re reading, encourage your child to use visual clues to gain information & support comprehension. Answer basic questions (who, what, where, when, why, how). Support pretend reading (for example: when a very young child makes up a story based on what the pictures, rhymes, or songs accompanying the story). Eventually, as children develop, they can make predictions with unfamiliar texts: what might happen next (and why), recognise familiar words. When they encounter a word they don’t know, they may identify letters of the alphabet in the word. They can then use the accompanying sounds to figure out what the word might be – start with the first consonsants….bat.
This is a time to encourage your child to follow the conventions of reading and print. Help them to learn how to hold a book right side up, using left to right progression to proceed through a book. They will begin to understand that books should be treated with gentleness and respect (they aren’t frisbees after all). Manipulating the book will help improve the development of their fine and gross motor skills. They will enjoy being part of the experience, holding the book, and turning the pages. It is truly exciting when children make the connection that these marks on the page are words and that words have meaning.
You Don’t Have to Spend a Lot of Money to Provide Your Child Access to the World of Books
Your local public library is an excellent resource for material, and there are so many high-quality choices available. Just begin by visiting and get a library card, even for your infant. If you can’t get to your local library, you can go online to the Public Library and check out their eBook and eAudiobooks for children (downloadable). While you’re online, check out the TumbleBook Library, a picture eBook collection for kids that you can listen to or read along with. Talk with other parents and friends to be on the look-out for sales at retail stores (including discount stores), speciality bookstores, on-line sites. To expand the selection of excellent books you share when your child outgrows your current selection, consider creating a parent lending library or holding a book exchange social. See if you can attend some of our inspiring local reading conferences and forums like “Reading For The Love Of It” (readingfortheloveofit.com February 23-24, 2017) and “Word On The Street Festival” (wordonthestreet.ca – Sunday, September 24, 2017, in Toronto this year).
Imagine, exploring the world from your home, bonding with your child, creating memories that will last a lifetime, and encouraging your child’s development – all from reading as a family. I hope you cherish every moment of raising your reader!