Reading is a lifelong activity that has so many benefits - it reduces stress, it's something you can do on your own anytime, it increases literacy and general knowledge. As a child, reading contributes to language development. It helps children to communicate with the world as they learn new words and thus aids in vocabulary building. Kids will learn how to read at school but the reading they do at school will be associated with "work"and eventually books will be replaced by video games and phone screens for fun.
To raise a lifelong reader, kids must associate reading and books with "pleasure",with "parent-time". Here are 8 ways to help you raise a lifelong reader.
1- Start early. Children as young as a few weeks old, delight in being read to. They are learning to recognise your voice and learn to pick up on different tempos and cadences. I started reading to both my kids when I was pregnant. It was a little one sided and really I could have been reading "Very Hungry Caterpillar"or "War and Peace" it would made very little difference! Except that I was getting my baby used to my voice.
2- Read aloud, make it a routine - Read every day to your child. Make it a routine - normally it's bedtime, but read throughout the day. Read to very young kids. During the day it works brilliantly after an hour's playtime, to help calm your child and settle down. Read aloud and use accents and different voices for different characters. Enjoy the time spent reading. It's time to bond with your child.
As your child grows older and learns to read, continue to read aloud to them while also encouraging them to read to you from the book.
For very young children there are some fabulous board books with different textures, built in sounds etc which can engage several senses.
3- Listen to your child- Read-aloud time is open to interruption. Engage with your child but discussing the story, if they interrupt don't stop them. And if they don't like a book or get scared or don't like the voices you're using, listen and don't insist on doing it your way.
4- Set up a small home library - It could be a couple of shelves. But your child will love to pick their own book and maybe even thumb through it, time and time again alone.
5- Always ask "What are you reading?. Have an ongoing conversation about books with your kids. Speak up if a moral issue is being addressed in a story that you can contribute your own family values to.
6- Visit the library - In Colombo we have access to the National Library and the British Council among other smaller libraries. Both have a very good selection of books for kids. British Council also has monthly reading and activity sessions and reading challenges which are fabulous. I used to take my kids regularly. But we are also blessed with some great bookshops. My favourites for kids' books are Makeen and Milk.
7- Choose good books and have a diverse range - There are many ways to search for suitable books. There are several awards for good children's literature, including the Newbery Medal. Also bring in your own tastes from when you were a kid. While online books are not ideal there are several interactive online books that your child might enjoy for bedtime reading.
Free online books can be found here:
- Book Trust: Storybooks to read online
- Free Children Stories
- International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL)
- National Geographic Young Explorer
- Oxford Owl
- Robert Munsch Official Website
- Storyline Online
Top 10 Interactive online books for Kids
I also love this site :
8- Make reading fun!! Never make reading a chore. Pick a time that works for your child - even as they grow older, don't force them to read, encourage gently.
Good luck!! Every adult who reads for pleasure, contributes to the worlds in a myriad of ways.
Some reading milestones from the UNICEF site :
While every child is different, here are some of the milestones you may observe as your child's reading skills develop:
Birth – 18 months
- Understands some simple phrases
- Looks at books and tries to turn pages
- Imitates speech
- At around 1 year can say one or more words
18 months – 3 years
- Can say 250 – 350 words at around 2 years and 800 – 1,000 words at around 3 years
- Enjoys listening to familiar books
- Says a repeated phrase from a favourite book
- Imitates the sounds of adults speaking
- Asks to be read to
3 – 5 years
- Recognizes familiar letters and tries to write them
- Holds a book correctly and turns the pages
- Identifies rhyming words
- Uses sentences comfortably
- Learns from books that are read aloud
Article by Mandy Rich, Digital