For the first Monday Munchkins post, I want to talk about promoting a love of reading and books in your child.
Why is this Important?
When your child starts school having a love of books and reading, or even just a familiarity with books, will help give your child a head start and make learning to read easier and more enjoyable. A love of books doesn’t just help your child to read, but it flows over into other areas of Literacy, such as spelling and writing. Most school subjects require reading, and beyond that, in adult life reading is an important skill to have (yes, even in physical professions). Reading is a life skill, so it is important to give your child the best head start you can.
1. Read to Your Child from an Early Age. Start right from the start. Even as an infant your child loves the sound of your voice, and most children’s story books have a lovely rhythmic sound when read aloud. Show your child the pictures and let them touch the pages. There are lots of fantastic board books out there with colourful illustrations and even touch and feel books with different textures. Let them handle the book themselves (cloth books are good if your child likes to chew).
2. Read to Your Child Every Day. Or at least try to. Most children love being read to. Try to make it a habit, like a story before bed at bedtime. Yes, it can be frustrating when your child keeps picking the same book over and over again (I’ll admit to hiding books because I was at the stage where I could recite the entire book without even looking at it), but think of it this way: your child is learning through repetition. Every time you read that same book he/she learns more about the words – what they mean and how they work. And when they sit there on their own reciting the words from memory, it is a step towards them learning to read for themselves. Introduce them to new books too. Go to the library if you can’t afford to keep buying new books or just for a bit of variety. For reluctant book lovers, pick books that appeal to your child’s interests or pick books with an enthralling storyline or great rhythm/rhymes or are just plain silly.
3. Fill Your Home with books. As a teacher I can tell when a child starting school has come from a home filled with books and one who hasn’t. Have a bookshelf full of children’s books that your children can access whenever you want to. If your children are a little tough on books, or like to love their books to death, have a bookshelf of second hand books or tough board books that they can easily access, and keep you favourite/special books on a higher shelf that you can all read together when you get them down.
4. Be a Good Role Model. Show your children that you like to read too. Yes, children can be extremely distracting when you are trying to read, and you usually do most of your reading after they’re in bed, but if they’re happy eating a snack or watching Dora, sit down at the table with them, or on the couch and read a chapter of your book. My oldest often sits next to me and looks at the cover (he can already recognise who Harry Potter is) or asks me what my book is about or points out words/letters he recognises in the text. Sometimes he will even get a book of his own and sit next to me to look at it while I read my book.
5. Interact with Your Child When Reading. Ask your child questions about the book as you read. Ask what they think will happen next or how they think the character is feeling. Point out parts of the illustration. Relate the story to the child’s world (eg: Does our dog do that? You like to eat spaghetti, don’t you?). This way the child becomes more involved in the story. As they get older and if the book is familiar, let them say the words they know.
How many of these do you do in your home? Do you do anything extra to promote a love of reading in your child? And don’t worry if you’re not doing any of this stuff yet, you can always start now.