As a speech-language pathologist working with young children I get more questions about book reading than any other topic. Today’s parents are not satisfied to sit on the sidelines when it comes to their children’s development. There is a desire to be involved and help their children grow and reach their full potential, right from birth.
Although it may seem strange to think about literacy before your child is in school, research tells us that the early experiences children have with books has a major impact on their later reading abilities. It is with this in mind that I write this article to help families learn how to set the stage for literacy at home and foster a love of book reading from an early age.
Accessibility to books is one of the major factors influencing a child’s literacy skills. This does not mean simply having books in the home, but making them available to young children to get to easily on their own. By bringing books down to low shelves and baskets kids can reach, and having books available in each room, you can create many more opportunities to for your child to pick up a book and explore.
Making book reading a part of the everyday routine is great to foster a love of reading and there are lots of instances in the day to easily add books in. Try keeping books in the car or stroller and give one to your child each time you are on the go. Keep small, soft books by the change table to give to your child to look at while you change their diaper. Keep books on the counter and let children look at them at the table while you prepare their breakfast. Take a look at your own family routine and see where else you can add in some more book time.
Modelling Book Behaviour
As with many things our children will follow our example, and book reading is no exception. Even young babies and toddlers will imitate book reading behaviours by holding books up, turning pages and even pretending to read. By letting your children see you read you can show them that literacy is important to you and encourages them to read too.
Make It A Family Affair
Any parent with more than one child knows that siblings love to have what the other one has and do what the other one does. Parents can use this desire to get children reading together. Encourage older children to read to their younger siblings right from birth. When younger ones get a little older encourage them to ask older siblings to read to them. Set aside some time in the day where children can look at books quietly together, like just before nap or in the evenings. Siblings learn many things from each other as they grow and a love of books can, and should, be one of them.
Take The Story Off The Page
One of the best ways to make books fun for children is to bring the story to life. For young babies and toddlers this could mean using sound effects and actions to go with the pictures in the book. It could also mean using props that go along with the story, for example giving your child a small truck to act out things the trucks are doing in the book, like honking, driving or crashing. For older children this could be relating the experiences of the characters to experiences in their own lives. It could also mean acting the story out during pretend play activities. By taking the story off the page you make book reading more fun and children will always want to do things they think are fun over and over again!
These are only some of the ideas that we use in our own home to make book reading a regular, and fun, part of our daily routine. I encourage you to try some of these in your own family or share with me the unique things you are already doing to foster a love of literacy in your home.