Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
My goal for writing blogs is to share practical and relevant information in a manner that inspires parents and adults who work with young children to remain focused on the things that truly matter. There is so much information about what to do and what not to do; and even professionals disagree among themselves on many topics. However, I believe that there are some areas where the data is pretty much undisputed.
We have only one chance to get it right, and we know for sure that what we do in the first five years of a child’s life impacts the child forever. We also know that what we do isn’t as important as the spirit in which we do it. We must love, nurture, hug, and express our feelings of love for a child in those first five years.
The heart comes first, but there other elements that are also essential. One thing I find that adults often misunderstand is the importance of reading to infants and young children. I want to share a few simple facts that I think are critical to instilling in your child a love of reading.
- Read to your infant every day from the day she arrives. Don’t make it a chore — read nursery rhymes and poems that are fun and also sing to her. Make daily reading a habit that you never stop.
- Read to your toddler and make it a cozy snuggle time. Read the same book over and over if that’s what he wants. Adults get bored with repetition, but toddlers do not. Have a set reading time each day so he can predict it and also read when he requests it. Bedtime stories are great and find other times to read to him, as well. Try reading outdoors, in the car, and to fill waiting time.
- Read out loud to your child, no matter the age. Do not stop reading aloud once she learns to read on her own. This is a serious mistake parents make. Children miss out on hearing a great story read to them when parents believe their children should practice reading at all times. Reading may eventually become a solo activity but read aloud to your child as long as you can. Even high-school students often enjoy their parents reading to them.
- Offer specific praise to your emerging reader when he excels at reading.
- As your child gets older, read a couple of chapters in a chapter book each night. Waiting to see what happens next is great delayed gratification, and it allows you to discuss the story. Talk about it and play guessing games to expand the story line.
- Find easy books for your child to read for pleasure. She will stop reading if a book is too hard so don’t push her to always read difficult books. The more comfortable she feels reading, the more she will read. Gradually increase the level of difficulty.
- If your child is reading for fun and doesn’t know a word, just tell him the word. Don’t make him sound it out each time unless he is reading for homework, reading practice, or study. This breaks up the story, and he loses concentration. There are two kinds of reading. Just let him read for fun when it’s the right time.
The more you read to your child, the more you surround her with great books, the more pleasurable you make the reading experience from the beginning, the better she will read. Reading well positions your child for success in many other areas of life.