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Importance of Reading to Your Child

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”—Dr. Seuss

I started reading to my kids the day they came home from the hospital. All 3 of my boys have always loved to read and were early readers. As a speech language pathologist, I have always had a passion for teaching kids to read and have always emphasized this in my therapy sessions. I have had many parents say to me that they just can’t read to their child because they “aren’t interested” or “won’t sit still.” I hope to give you some tips and ideas on how to foster a love of reading in ANY child.

When Should I Start Reading To My Child?

Right away! Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children all benefit from having someone read to them. Even when a child has learned to read, it’s still important to read to them, as well. This is because most beginning reading books don’t have the language and vocabulary to increase skills, so children still benefit from hearing more advanced books read aloud to them.

What Are The Benefits Of Reading At A Young Age?

Reading boosts brain development and increases cognitive growth. Reading also establishes a bond between the caregiver and child. Reading also teaches listening skills, increases attention, teaches life lessons, encourages problem solving skills, enhances social/emotional development, and increases vocabulary.

How To Introduce Reading

You can include books into a child’s daily routines. Encourage reading at mealtimes, whether it involve reading while nursing a baby at the same time or sitting around the noisy dinner table with toddlers and children. Keep books in the car or play a book on tape while driving. Plastic books are great at bath time. I find this a really great time to introduce books because the child cannot go anywhere and most kids love water. Kids are often calmer during bath time as well. Bedtime is my favorite time of the day. My kids started reading every night since birth. Set up a reading spot that’s calming and comfortable for you and your child. Make reading a habit and part of your child’s daily activities.

How Should I Read To My Child?

Babies love to manipulate books, so I encourage plastic, cloth, or board books. Books with textures, flaps or buttons will keep their interest. Keep books and reading simple. Simple and colorful pictures with single words are best. Point to the pictures as you read. Thick pages will also help teach page turning. Nursery rhymes are great for babies and toddlers to teach rhythm. Active toddlers sometimes have difficulty sitting and reading. Try interactive books. Also, try ignoring the text and let your child take the lead, commenting on what grabs their attention. For toddlers, rereading familiar books is great. Encourage toddlers to tell what happens next and connect the text to the real world (“Look there’s a dog. It looks like our dog, except it’s brown.).

For children, find stories with simple plots that have a beginning, middle and end so that the child can begin to sequence. Talk about new vocabulary, character’s feelings and predictions. For older children, continue to read aloud. It’s important that they continue to learn and hear more complex skills.

HELP! I Can’t Get My Child To Sit And Read With Me

Just because a child won’t sit and read, doesn’t mean that he doesn’t like to read. Even though a child might not be sitting, doesn’t mean he isn’t listening. A child may be playing or running around and may come look at a picture every now and then. Keep reading! Give a child a sensory/fidget toy to help them focus. Do not read every word on the page. Often, the child will lose focus. Instead, “talk” about what is happening in the pictures. Use silly voices to grab the child’s attention. Ask lots of questions to increases engagement. Let your child pick the books that interest them. I like books that encourage movement, actions, and songs. I also encourage families to make picture books of objects and people in their child’s life. Some children really enjoy looking at these real-life photos.

How Can I Ensure My Child Will Be A Good Reader?

Learning to read starts as a baby. Young children can learn how books work, what to do with books, and how printed words represent spoken words. They can learn about the world around them through books. Learning letters and phonological awareness skills are key indicators of reading success. Phonological awareness skills include rhyming, letter/sound relationships, etc. These types of skills can be introduced during reading, singing, or play. Choose books with rhyming or repeating sounds. Clapping out syllables or the beat is another great activity.

I hope this post gives readers some ideas on when to read, what to read, and how to read to your child. Reading to my children was and still is such a meaningful and important part of my day. I hope you are able to encompass some of these strategies so that reading can play an integral role in your lives.

– Julie Sloan, Speech-Language Pathologist