One of the greatest joys I have ever shared with my kids is a love for books. A well-written story can take a reader on amazing adventures. Regularly reading to children is the best habit parents can establish.
Children benefit from being read to. Listening to stories helps develop language skills and increases vocabulary. Books exercise their brain and encourage their imagination.
Reading with kids can sometimes feel challenging. Give a baby a book and they may try to use it for teething. A busy toddler is often more interested in activities rather than sitting quietly for a story. Even older children don’t like to sit still.
Don’t be detoured. The lessons books teach are so valuable, and there are creative ways to make reading time engaging.
They are never too young to be read to:
Your baby loves to hear your voice. Read them nursery rhymes, poems, and storybooks. Get board books they can’t easily tear and let them touch and hold them. Read the story and show them the pictures. Point out how the picture relates to the story. Name the animals and colors. As they begin to talk, you’ll be surprised how much information they have been absorbing. As they begin to walk, they will bring you books and be asking you to read to them.
Reading is calming:
As children grow into busy toddlers, being read to before a nap or bedtime helps them to quiet themselves. Make a habit of bedtime reading. Not only will they develop a love for books, but they will also cherish the time and closeness with you.
Books teach responsibility:
It’s important to show young children how care for books. Remind them to turn pages carefully and to never write in a book. Checking books out at the public library is a great opportunity for them to practice caring for books.
Transition to chapter books:
My kids wanted to read favorite picture books over and over. I had several memorized. Transitioning to chapter book read alouds was exciting for them and me. My children each made this shift at different ages. I was amazed when I realized my younger kids were listening to stories I was reading to older siblings. We started with books that still held some illustrations like Charlotte’s Web and short stories like James Herriot’s Treasury for Children.
Children are often expected to sit still and listen. If they wiggle or move around, it feels like they are not paying attention. The fact is, they cannot be expected to be completely still. Especially during the longer reading time of a chapter book. Children often pay better attention if they have a quiet activity. It may take some trial and error to determine what works best for your child. Here are some quiet activities I’ve found successful.
- Offer coloring pages. Use pages you have, or search online for images related to the book you’re reading. Some authors offer free color pages that can be found on their websites.
- Let them build legos. Spread the pieces out flat so they don’t make a lot of noise sorting through them.
- Have them build a puzzle.
- Put together quiet busy bags activities that are used specifically for reading time.
Make sure they are listening:
Children have a lot of energy, and they need time to let it out through play. When it’s time to settle down, break out the books. Keep them engaged by asking questions as you read the story,
- What do you think will happen next?
- Would you like to live in a castle?
- Do you think that hungry caterpillar will ever stop eating?
They will learn to pay closer attention and engage their imaginations when asked questions.
Watch them grow:
When you’re done reading, ask them to narrate what was read. This is a great practice throughout reading a book. Ask them questions about the characters and the plot of the story. Assess their understanding of the story, and look for any words that are new to them. Their ability to articulate a story will improve with each new book.
When a child tells a story back to you, they make it their own. It helps to remember and know what they have learned. Charlotte Mason called this process the “act of knowing.”
Reading quality books to your children and discussing their understanding of the stories engages their minds and imaginations. They will look forward to continued reading with you and will be excited to share what they are learning. Even as they learn to read for themselves, they will cherish reading with you. So pick up some books and take your kids on some adventures.
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