Quiet time is important for all of us. It is up to us parents to teach the love of quiet to our children. One way to teach them this love of quiet is to share reading time with them. You can do this as early as when they are infants.
It is never too early to start reading to babies
A scene from the movie Three Men and a Baby pops into my head. In an attempt to calm the baby, one of the “dads” reads The Wall Street Journal to her in a high-pitched, sing-song voice and guess what? It works! Although I don’t encourage this, the point is that it’s more about how you read and less about what you read. It’s important to remember that you do not have to be married to the text.
Reading with babies is simple. You can begin your baby’s reading experience by labeling one picture on each page as they attempt to turn the pages of a board book. Even better, use the pictures or story to create silly sound effects or exaggerate sounds in the story. Sneezes, yawns, animal sounds, “Crash”, “Boom” and “Beep Beep” are ones that you can have fun with.
My fifteen-month-old daughter, Logan has a book with a cow finger puppet that pops through the page. She is totally engaged reading this book! My husband, Scott created a reading routine with her: He pops the cow through the page and says “Peek-a-boo”! Logan attempts to imitate his word, pushes the cow back through, waves and says “bye bye”. She is laughing, talking, turn taking and interacting and Scott hasn’t read a single word of the book.
When reading to babies do not make it forced or stressful. Getting in a word here and there as the child explores (or chews) the book is success! Gradually, their attention span will increase and you will be able to have more fun reading.
Repetition, Repetition, Repetition
As you baby’s attention span improves and language skills develop, you can begin to tell short stories. Most likely you will have to shorten the story or even skip sentences to keep his or her interest. Easy stories to share with your baby have very few if any words such as one of my favorites, Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann.
After your baby’s first birthday, he or she will begin to show definite book preferences. Remember, you can never read a book too many times. Your mantra with your child should be, “Repetition, Repetition, Repetition”. Repetition is the absolute key to language development and early literacy skills.
Toddlers will begin to anticipate what’s coming next in a favorite book and chime in sound effects or words. You can even create a pause before the key words or sound effects to encourage participation from your little one.
As your child gets older, begin to point out where the words are located on the page, talk about the title and together guess what the book might be about. Also, discuss new vocabulary words, ask lots of questions and talk about how the characters feel. Don’t worry over letters, phonics and spelling – that will come later. For now, be creative and have fun.
As long as you are reading and talking, language and reading skills will continue to build as you find new and exciting ways to stimulate your child’s brain.
Share a love of books
My almost four-year-old son, Gavin has a hand-me-down book that his grandmother gave him. It was his dad’s favorite book, Miss Suzy by Miriam Young. As a child, Scott read it over and over again. The other night Gavin said, “Daddy, let’s read this book tonight because it’s your favorite”. What made this moment so special was that Gavin really doesn’t like this book. Six mean red squirrels chase poor Miss Suzy out of her tree house home. It scares Gavin. I had suggested this book several times before and he always turned it down. Now, he was choosing Miss Suzy on this night to bond with his dad. It wasn’t so much about the book he chose but about the quality time he was spending with Daddy! And not only this but, Gavin realized his dad thinks reading is cool!
Create a homespace for reading
It is important to create quiet spaces in your home for reading and sharing books. For example, Logan’s reading space is a cozy glider next to a basket of books. She is able to read independently by pulling books out of the basket. Gavin’s reading space is usually in his bed. He chooses a book (or two) from his magazine-rack bookshelf. The books are stored with the cover facing outward which allows Gavin to see the illustrated covers to entice him into reading. This type of bookshelf (Gavin’s was made by a family member) is a great space to hold books for children that haven’t started to read yet.
Here are a few tips to be aware of when creating homespace for reading:
- Choose a comfortable space
- Choose a space that has minimal distractions
- Books should be easily accessible
- Clean-up should be simple
Reading is one of the most important life skills
Setting aside quality time to bond with your child over books is one of the most important things you will do as a parent/grandparent/godparent/guardian. In doing so you are giving your child the special attention he or she deserves. You are also laying the groundwork for future literacy skills and teaching the joy of reading!
Make reading a part of your home. For my family, reading is part of the bedtime routine for each of us. Scott and I do not have a TV in our bedroom – in fact, none of the bedrooms in our home have one. So, there is nothing to distract us from our nightly reading ritual!
Enjoy the world of reading with your child…