How parents read to babies, toddlers, and preschoolers can have a huge impact on how much they love reading and how readily they learn to read on their own one day. Here, simple steps you can take at bedtime tonight.
Read books with rich illustrations
The least helpful types of books for children under age 5: ones with simple photos illustrations and minimal text. Compared with illustrated books, these don’t trigger as many conversation starters, which are critical to child development.
Ask questions based on the illustrations
Children between 16 and 24 months add more words to their vocabularies on a daily basis than they do at any other age, says Morrison. The first and easiest words to learn and label from book illustrations are nouns like “dog” and “tree,” she says. If you see a picture of a dog, ask your toddler or preschooler such questions as “Do you see the dog?” “What color is the dog?” “What is the dog doing?” This base knowledge of nouns helps children add the other parts of speech more quickly.
Cuddle your child in your arms while reading
This helps your child associate reading with feeling close and comfortable. This will eventually help your child become more confident with reading out loud.
Share the obvious
Point out things about books that you may take for granted as an adult. Share the authorâs name and describe what an author does, show your child how to hold a book, demonstrate how sentences are read from left to right, and what itâs like to turn the pages. Knowing these basic reading steps will make it easier for young children to read independently when they âre ready.
Relate plots to real life
Ask open-ended questions (who, what, where, and why) to children age 3 and older to open a dialogue of storytelling. Relating a book âs plot to a real-life situation your child has experienced helps her better remember the book and vocabulary words.
Use reading to spark conversation
It is actually not important that you finish the entire book; what really matters is the nature of conversation you have during reading. A parent who readily responds to questions (even if they seem never-ending!) and has a back-and-forth style of talking with her child will help develop their kid’s cognitive skills and social development in the real world. Ask questions based on the illustrations and let the conversation flow from there.
Don’t be afraid to imitate voices or make silly sounds
Wham! Bang! Mooooo! These onomatopoeias may feel embarrassing to say, but your child needs to hear them (and will adore seeing your silly side). The variety of sounds and voices act as an early literacy skill that will eventually lead to your child recognizing phonemes, or the sound units that make up larger words, says Morrison. Recognizing and hearing these sound units help your children to speak full words.
Follow your child attention
If you force your child to sit still and read, he’ll come to think of reading as a punishment. Instead, go with the flow of your child’s attention span. When he loses interest he may run around the room a bit, but come back to the book in a few minutes. Don’t give up when your child runs away or gets bored. Keep reading and commenting on the story to yourself; often he’ll circle back to you out of curiosity.