These days, parents have enough to worry about without agonizing over whether their child is reading enough. Yes, reading comprehension is a compulsory part of any child’s education, but with so many electronic distractions both in an outside of the home, developing a true love for reading at an early age can be challenging. Parents saddled with this worry know it is no trivial thing; studies have shown that children who are successful readers not only do well in school, but also in their post-academic careers. Here are a few key tips for raising a reader of any age.
Babies & Toddlers
Reading with babies and toddlers is a different experience than at any other age. For starters, since babies and toddlers aren’t yet enrolled in school, parents aren’t able to rely on the education system to lay the groundwork for a lifelong passion for reading. At this age, getting your child familiar with books falls squarely on your shoulders. So what can you do?
- Be flexible. Remember that it can be very difficult to get a baby or toddler to focus their attention on any one thing for very long. Rather than setting out to read a book from cover to cover, take some cues from your little one. If they’d rather play with (or chew on) the book, let them do it. Board books, in particular, stand up well to rough play and baby drool, so be sure to have a few of those on hand.
- Sing it out. You may find that your baby or toddler will respond better or be more attentive if you read a book in a sing-songy way. Young children are particularly drawn to rhyming, so these types of stories should also be a part of your child’s book collection.
- Visit your local library. As a new parent, it can be difficult to find an excuse (or even the time!) to get out of the house. If that’s the case, check out your local public library to see if they have any reading programs or storytimes scheduled for your child’s age group—it will get you out and about while exposing your child to books and the fun of reading from a young age! A win-win!
Parents with preschool-aged children know that variations of the questions “why?”, “how come?” and “what is that?” make up the bulk of their child’s vocabulary at this age. Laying the groundwork for a love of reading at this stage is all about helping your child understand and appreciate the story you are reading with them.
- Talk about the story together. Since each book represents a whole new experience or life lesson to your child, make sure that you take the time to talk to your child about what is happening on each page. Remember that you’ll have greater difficulty instilling a love of reading in your child if they are unable to comprehend or grasp what is happening in the story. To test comprehension, ask them to recount what is happening in the story and predict how it might end. Attempting to figure out events that have not yet occurred based on information presented in the story is part of the fun of reading.
- Always have a book on the go. By always having a book with you (either in your vehicle or bag), you can teach your child that reading can be done just about anywhere. Some parents even keep a bag of books by the door in their homes and allow their children to pick one out to take with them as they run errands together. Not only will having a book on hand serve as a prompt for reading outside of the house, it’s also an easy(and non-digital), form of entertainment that will keep your child busy in the car.
- Get your child their very own library card. Starting at around the age of five or so, kids get excited about the idea of belonging to a club. Getting them their very own library card will get them excited about the idea of belonging to something, and will allow them to feel “grown up” as they eventually check out their own books. Since there are very few things that kids this age can enroll in and be in charge of, getting their own library card can be an empowering event in their lives.
Even once they’ve started school and are reading regularly throughout the day, there are steps that you can take to keep a passion for reading alive.
- Don’t be too quick to stop the storytime tradition. Some parents think that just because their child has begun school they can stop reading out loud to them. The truth is, reading at home can help improve a child’s understanding of what they read and help to challenge them to read something outside of their comfort zone. Parents can help by choosing books that are slightly more difficult than the material they’re required to read for school. Doing so will help keep the child engaged in reading as a leisure activity and help them add more complicated words to their vocabulary.
- Lead by example. It’s difficult to drive the point home that reading is important if you aren’t also observed reading from time to time. To put it simply, if you want your child to read more, they have to see you reading, too!
- Build a love for reading around their interests. As long as your child is taking time away from computers and video games to read, it’s important to be supportive of what they’re reading. Not everything they read needs to be a chapter book; everything from graphic novels and comic books to sports and Pokemon cards count. Since children of this age are impressionable, be aware of how you present your acceptance of their interests. Be supportive as much as possible while encouraging them to consume reading material from different sources.
Every parent wants their child to love reading. As stated, developing sound reading skills early on in life leads to good things down the road—but it isn’t always easy to get them reading material that they want to read. If your local library has limited options, you can always purchase a monthly book subscription box for your child. These subscriptions are a great way to ensure that your child, regardless of age, will have a steady supply of reading material delivered to your door. Check out Lillypost’s book boxes for a subscription package that suits you and your child’s reading needs and interests.