Readers gonna read
As a child, I always had my head in a book and my weekly trip to the library to borrow copies of Sweet Valley High and The Babysitters Club was the highlight of my Saturday. In a day and age flooded with technology, there are concerns that children are reading less and less. You’re far more likely to board a plane and observe a child playing the latest game on an iPad than seeing them engrossed in a book. However, researchers have documented that children are still reading for fun when reading is encouraged outside of the school environment. This is reassuring information given the importance of reading and the benefits it has on children as they grow up. Children who are readers have greater vocabulary, increased ability to analyse information and more knowledge of the world around them. Reading opens doors that other interests simply don’t.
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So here are a few helpful suggestions to support your child into growing up to be a reader.
Start them young
Children love to pour over books, turn pages and take in pictures and text long before they can make sense of the words. Having books around during play and offering children the opportunity to look at books regularly will spark their interest and ensure they see books as synonymous with playtime and fun. Keep a basket of books where your toddler can easily access them independently. Include touch-and-feel books that can heighten their experience and board books that are easier to turn the pages.
Have story time
I still remember story time before bed when I was a child. Reading aloud to your child provides them with a wider vocabulary and gives them the opportunity to hear stories they may not be able to read. As a child listens to a story being read, they open up their imaginations and develop their concentration skills. Reading at bedtime can be a special time as you bond with your child and share a special experience. Bedtime reading often stops when a child becomes a certain age and yet experts say that keeping this special family time as your child grows up can provide opportunities for your child to open up and share about their day.
Variety is the spice of life
Some children may shy away from books but love to read magazines and comics. Don’t hold books in any higher esteem – reading is fantastic whatever the material. Your child should be encouraged to read what they enjoy and they should have access to all forms of literature to see what appeals most to them. Encourage their interests and let them read whatever they want to – don’t push your own agenda.
Use reading as a reward
Instead of forcing your child to spend time reading, offer reading time as a reward. Tell them they can stay up a bit later tonight to read their book if they’d like to. Associate reading with positivity and children will be longing to read more. Build the excitement of purchasing a new book as you would a new toy and allow your child plenty of time to choose whichever book they want.
When you take your young children shopping, read the packages and boxes aloud and show them the words to help them make sense of the text. Involving them in this experience will once again help them associate reading with your attention and with fun times together. You can also read street signs out loud to them or show them the words in a menu rather than automatically ordering for them. Children love to be involved in your grown-up world and to feel mature and grown-up themselves.
Make reading fun
When you read together, bring stories to life with puppets, fancy dress outfits and funny voices. Read books with repeated phrases that you can say together or animals that they can mimic the sounds of. Be silly and use actions as you read. You can even get up and act out parts of a story like climbing a bean stalk or going on a bear hunt. The magic of books lies in the stories and children love to be transported to fantasy worlds where they can become princesses and princes or where they can travel off into outer space or a far-off land.
Read relevant stories
Many children’s books use real life experiences to help children make sense of the world around them. Stories can make experiences seem less intimidating or overwhelming. Reading young children stories about first trips to the dentist or a new baby can help them to make sense of what may be about to happen. Even older children can use stories to help them understand different stages of their lives.
Be a reader
As with all things in life its best to lead by example. When your children see you reading, they will want to read themselves. You should share your latest book with them; read passages out loud to them even if you think its beyond their understanding. Children will love to be involved in your world and hearing words aloud once again support their developing vocabulary.