We started reading early with Immy. Once the haze of the first few weeks with a newborn wore off and we all seemed to be developing an understanding of how to get along, we started to read together. I can’t remember exactly when it was that our morning reading routine began, I think she was between 10 and 11 weeks old, and it continues today.
Every morning, she wakes up and comes into our bed for her morning feed and then we sit together in bed and read. Every morning. On weekends or mornings when he doesn’t have to rush out the door, Dad 101 joins us in our reading ritual. When we first started, it would only be one very short story and then I would sing nursery rhymes and simple actions songs and move her arms and legs as actions to the words. Now, it is three, four, or sometimes even, five stories. Now it is sometimes even the same story, three, four or even five times!
Time spent reading together is an important first step in the process of growing children with a passion for reading. The closeness to you as they sit on your lap or by your side, listening to your voice, listening to the sounds of new words, looking at interesting pictures representing such a wide, wide world of possibilities; this experience creates positive memories associated with books.
Tips for Reading with Young Children
1. Read to your child with enjoyment in your voice (yes, even if you can recite the words by heart), use interesting voices to represent the characters, make the many animal noises that enhance the tale, pause for effect as the drama unfolds. Immy loves reading, Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy. Why? It is all about the climactic pause before “Scarface Claw, the toughest tom in town,” is revealed with dramatic fervor (think of the deep, menacing ominous-sounding voice of the villainous Dr Claw from the original Inspector Gadget cartoon!)
2. As you read, respond to the text by making observations or questioning aloud what is happening in the book. Point out interesting details in the illustrations to your child. If it is a lift-the-flap book, encourage your child to lift the flap independently, or in books with fun textures, talk to you child about what you (and they) can feel. For older children, ask them what they think will happen next or what they would do if they were in a particular predicament.
3. Litter your home with books. We currently have picture books in both bedrooms, the study, the living room, the kitchen and the car. We regularly take books outside. If you are worried about the ‘clutter’ of having books everywhere, invest in some nice baskets or magazine racks to keep them in.
4. Teach your child from the beginning to respect books. Immy was not allowed to put paper books in her mouth, not even board books. We have taught her how to turn pages carefully and ask her to put the books away when she is finished reading them. At first I was worried that her books would be torn by immature fingers or that if I turned my back she would damage their fragile pages but from about 13 months of age I learnt to trust her to independently ‘read’ all of her books (not just her board books); seeing her passion for books, she would fill our day with books and stories, this one and that one, or that one again and again, the alternative was me sitting on the floor reading with her all day long so how could I not!
5. Whether from the bookshop, the local library, or even Ebay, choose a myriad of children’s books to enjoy together. There are so many fabulous classic picture books to choose from. If you are not sure which to choose, look for online recommendations or look at your National Book Awards contenders; in Australia we have the Children’s Book Council of Australia which awards the annual Book of the Year Award and in the process produces annual lists of notable mentions in categories from picture books through to young adult selections.
6. When choosing books,
- Follow Squigglemum’s advice and choose books with an amount of text per page appropriate to your child’s concentration span. Paragraphs are a no go with most little ones. Looks also at the storyline; is it engaging? Will your child relate?
- Look for fun or interesting illustrations. I love Eric Carle’s use of collage in classics like The Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Busy Spider, the simplicity of the illustrations in Pat Hutchin’s Titch books, the hidden gems in Graeme Base’s Animalia illustrations.
- Don’t be afraid of simple verse. Cockadoodledoo! Farmyard Hullaballoo!, Commotion in the Ocean and Rumble in the Jungle (all by Giles Andreae) are wonderful books for introducing poetry, rhyme and verse to children.
- Find books that relate to your child’s interests. This is also an easy way to introduce your child to non fiction texts.
- Have fun introducing ‘how to’ books to your child. There are easy to use books about cooking with kids, gardening and art materials.
- Don’t forget magazines and catalogues can make for interesting reading too.
7. The local library is a wonderful source of books. Look for a library near you that hosts storytime for preschoolers or toddlers, or literature-based holiday activities for school aged children.
8. Keep reading to your children, even as they get older. I fondly remember sleepovers with my cousins at my Nanna and Pop’s, Nanna would read to us all once we were snuggled in our beds. I can picture us when I was about 10 or 11 years old and Nanna was reading us a novel, begging for ‘just one more chapter’ before we went to sleep.
There are many elements involved in growing a child who reads. But to begin we must first, germinate the seed and I can think of no better way of doing this than by taking a few moments in each day to read together.