It may seem like an obvious answer but a love of reading and literacy is linked to long-term success in multiple, seemingly unrelated areas of life. This is news to most parents. The trick is not what but how. How do we help develop this in our children without losing our mind?
The answer is not making us and our kids crazy and frustrated by standing over them and forcing them to read and read until they get it right. The answer isn’t phonics or sight words exclusively either. In fact, the answer isn’t about the mechanics of teaching them HOW to read. So, what is the answer?
Exposing your kids to quality books is essential. The goal is not to make them read. You want them to love reading and learning. So, what makes a great book? Well, that depends on their age.
Babies and Toddlers
For babies and toddlers (yes, you should read to babies and toddlers!), you want illustrations with high contrast and text that is repetitive and rhymes. Also, go ahead and get those board books that will stand up to little hands and mouths. Let them have free access to them.
When you read with them, let them wiggle and be active. Let reading be fun for them. Engage them with interactive questions about the illustrations like “Can you find the bird?” or “Where is the red balloon?” and all those little extra questions. Don’t worry about skipping pages or not reading all of the words. It is more important that reading is fun for them at this point than anything else.
Books that encourage acting out the text or give directions are great at this age. These books not only encourage pre-literacy skills but get your kids moving and active. Give kids at this age a chance to “read” with you and build their confidence. A great way to make this happens is with repetitive text. Let them say the repeated phrase for you while you are reading to them. Another great activity is to let them finish the last word in a rhyme. This helps them develop an understanding that the printed words are connected to the language they speak every day.
A fun way to “read” with your preschooler is to get a wordless book and make up stories together to go with the illustrations. Kids love to be the storyteller and will enjoy being able to take the lead even though they cannot read yet.
Once a child starts to read independently, many parents stop reading out loud to them, assuming they no longer need or want it. Not only do they still enjoy the special time with their parents, but they also benefit from being exposed to vocabulary that is above their reading level. By reading to them, you can help them learn and enjoy things that they are not able to read to themselves yet.
Also, at this stage, relationships and the interactions between characters in stories open up great conversations with your child about things like empathy, integrity, and other lessons in character.
While learning the skills needed to learn how to read, don’t forget to expose your children to other important literacy skills such as cultural literacy and emotional literacy. Expose your children to various cultures and types of people throughout their books and also include stories that address how to express and handle emotions healthily and handle relationships with other people.
I believe so strongly that the quality of the books you have in your home matters that I am sharing a one-time special discount to all of my readers at Barefoot Books. Just enter the code FALL2015 to get 20% off your entire order before October 31, 2015.
(Disclaimer: I am an Independent Ambassador for Barefoot Books and do earn commissions from sales. However, a portion of my profit goes to various non-profits working to encourage literacy and help at-risk families with various problems such as domestic violence and poverty.)