Starting from the moment you find out you’re expecting your first child, you’ll be inundated with messages about the importance of reading to your child. There’s a good reason for this: the benefits of reading to children at every stage of their development have been well documented. Raising a reader, on the other hand, is enjoyable, rewarding, and relatively simple.
First and foremost, familiarise yourself with reading.
If you’ve allowed reading to fall to the sidelines of your life, now is the time to bring it back into the forefront. Make room and time for books you want to read for yourself as well as books you want to read with your child. If you want to raise a reader, you should read yourself.
Baby Books Are an Absolute Must Have
You may believe that you are exempt from reading books until your baby is at least vertical, but this is not the case. It is beneficial for even newborns to have the experience of hearing stories (and they will not be able to complain about your book selection). So take advantage of the situation. Here’s how it’s done:
Every Day, Read Aloud to Yourself
You can read anything to a newborn, whether it’s a cookbook, a dystopian novel, or a parent’s guide to raising children. It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about. That is, it is the tone of your voice, the cadence of your text, and the content of the words that are important. According to research, the number of words that an infant is exposed to has a direct impact on his or her language development as well as his or her literacy. However, there is a catch: The language must be spoken in real time, in person, and directed directly at the child. Turning on the television, or even listening to an audiobook, does not qualify. Yes, it is beneficial to begin reading aloud the children’s books that will become part of your child’s library as soon as possible. But don’t let that put you in a box. Just make sure you have a good time.
Make Use of Your Senses
Babies who are read to learn that reading is enjoyable and can involve all of the senses: the feel of the pages, the smell of the glue (don’t go crazy with it), the visuals of the illustrations, and the sound of the parent’s voice are all examples of what babies learn when they are read to. Try it out: Textured books are especially beneficial for increasing your child’s tactile experience in reading.
Keep Your Audience in Mind
Make direct eye contact, but don’t look for a specific reaction to occur. Although it may appear that babies are not paying attention, they are actually taking in everything around them. In addition, the patterns, routines, and attentive habits that are established now will last a lifetime for the individual.
Get Your Baby to Communicate
Babies may begin to make noises in response to what you are reading. Many books aimed at this age group contain nonsense words or animal sounds, which are easier to imitate than real words. Try it out: If your child makes a noise, you should respond to it. It may appear to make no sense to you, but it is a form of communication. The path from this point to your first parent-child book club is a straight shot in the dark.
It’s difficult to overstate how important reading is to a toddler’s intellectual, social, and emotional development as they grow older. They take in everything when you are reading to them: vocabulary and language structure, numbers and math concepts, colours, shapes, animals, opposing concepts, manners, and any other useful information about the world they come across during the reading process. And when you read out loud, your toddler makes the connection between books and the familiar, beloved sound of your voice — as well as the physical closeness that reading together fosters between you. You are assisting in the development of a positive association with books that will last a lifetime for the recipient.
Keep the following in mind:
Reading Occurs at Various Times Throughout the Day
Every night before bed, parents of toddlers have a routine that they are familiar with — what better way to get your energetic little ball of energy to relax before bed? Make sure the atmosphere is relaxing and not rushed, and select one of the many books that end with a peaceful going-to-bed scene, which should be placed strategically (though friskier books about sleep-avoiding children are fun, too). However, you should also read to your toddler during the day. One of the most effective — and, on some days, the only effective — methods of getting toddlers to slow down and concentrate is to offer them books to read with them. Keep your distance and savour these moments of connection while the sun is still shining outside.
Bring Your Own Flavor to the Table
You’ve been reading for a long time and have developed an understanding of what you enjoy in adult literature. As a parent, you have the opportunity to rediscover your enjoyment of children’s literature. Bring out your old favourites and look for something new that catches your eye when you’re in bookstores, libraries, or your friends’ homes, and then read it. The good news is that the best authors and illustrators of children’s books are concerned with pleasing their adult audiences as well as their young readers. Try it out: When you’re reading aloud, make minor adjustments to the text. Sexist, racist, out-of-date, and in some cases, downright offensive, many classic children’s books are now considered outdated and, in some cases, downright awful. Please feel free to improve upon them.
Preferences of Your Child Should be Respected
Your child is already pleasantly surprising you with his or her own preferences and viewpoints. Similarly to how your child may not enjoy your kale salad, he or she may not appreciate Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings,” which features exquisite black-and-white crosshatching, to the same extent that you did as a child. You may not be overjoyed by the prospect of fairies or talking trucks, but your child most certainly is. Encourage children to express their feelings about their books and to seek out more books that are similar to their favourites.
The Pas De Deux between a parent and a child
To the extent that you can make reading mutually satisfying, the more likely it is that reading will be associated with pleasure and reward. If your child doesn’t like the sound of your silly ogre’s voice, don’t make him or her hear it. Keep in mind that it is also story time for your child. Try it out: Allow your child to turn the pages in order to keep the story moving. (It’s also a fantastic tool for improving fine motor skills.)
It is Acceptable to Interrupt
Don’t get so absorbed in your own reading that you forget to pay attention to your child’s comments and questions. Your child’s interruptions indicate that he or she is engaged. Try it out: If you find yourself saying, “Just give me a minute to finish this page,” take a deep breath and ask your toddler to ask the question again. If the words don’t seem to be engaging the children, enquire as to what they see in the pictures. Draw attention to objects and ask them to explain or narrate what is happening.
Increase the Size of Your Toddler’s World
Sometimes toddlers seem to be “stuck” on a particular book that you don’t particularly enjoy. Avoid denying them the books they enjoy reading, but try to actively steer them towards other types of literature. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to expose toddlers to subjects that they don’t understand because they will learn as they go. It is possible to break down any topic — including geology, art history, and life in different cultures — into manageable chunks that are engaging to children by reading a good children’s book. Try it out: When children reach a certain age, they may begin to gravitate exclusively towards stories that feature a protagonist who is the same gender as themselves. Toddlers, on the other hand, are an exception. Take advantage of this opportunity to introduce them to a diverse selection of characters.
Select a Wide Range of Books
All children require the opportunity to see themselves reflected in the picture books in their environment. If your child belongs to a racial or ethnic minority, look for books that feature children who look similar to your child — they are becoming increasingly common. The benefits of books that depict children of various skin tones and ethnicities are also beneficial to white children. It is essential that all children are exposed to books that depict the diverse range of cultural traditions and family structures that coexist in our communities. Children will be better prepared for life in a diverse world if they are exposed to diversity through books.