Do infomercials for toddler reading programs make you wonder if you should be doing more to help your child learn to read? Maybe your older child doesn’t seem interested in books, whether or not he or she is ready to start reading them on their own. There are simple steps you can take to increase any child’s interest in reading, whether you start when they’re infants or somewhere later down the line.
Set an example.
Children love to imitate their parents — let your child catch you reading! Also, explain what you’re doing when you read directions, signs or shopping lists. “This paper tells me what we need to remember.” This will help your child understand that symbols represent objects. Older children can make lists using pictures to represent objects or events. Later, they’ll learn to use letters and words instead of pictures.
Make books available.
Books aren’t just for bedtime! Kids will read throughout the day if they have books at their disposal. Keep some in the bathroom, in the car, in all the rooms of your house. Reading 1-2 books at bedtime is a wonderful way to wind down and be cozy as your child gets ready to sleep. Consider leaving a book or two in the crib or beside the bed for wake-up time.
Read at your child’s pace.
Children need time to absorb all that’s going on in the pages of a picture book. They may want to turn back to an earlier page to check for something they missed, or they may want to skip ahead to their favorite part. They’ll definitely want to read a great book again and again. Try to figure out what it is about a special book that captivates your child so…and seek that quality in other books you choose.
Help your child make connections between the books she reads and the world around her.
Help your child find books that relate to his interests. Refer to scenarios and characters from books as you move through the day together. “You’re going to preschool, just like Wemberley.” Cook foods that are in the books you read together. All these activities reinforce the concepts your child is learning from the stories, as well as enrich his experience of the text when you re-read those books.
Sing songs and say nursery rhymes together.
Both activities let children predict what comes next. Children need practice linking ideas and sequencing the series of events that form a story. Another great way to develop reading skills is to take turns telling stories and listening to each other. As your child gets older, write down the stories she tells, and let her see you doing so. This reinforces the concept that symbols represent objects.
Need some help selecting books for your child? This checklist may help. Once you know the basic criteria for quality literature, browsing bookstores and sorting through library shelves will become second nature.