Do you ever skip reading to your child because of time constraints or lack of confidence?
It’s important to know that reading to your child has benefits beyond language and literacy development. As parents, we sometimes feel daunted by reading, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Young children look up to us as beacons of information, and anything we demonstrate is valuable learning. To help you build your child’s love for books and boost your confidence as a reading guide, I’m sharing some helpful tips, alternative approaches, and practical activity ideas that will help you ignite your child’s lifelong love for reading.
Choose Age-Appropriate Books
A visit to your local library and consultation with the librarian for age-appropriate book recommendations is a must and saves you from buying books that overwhelm your child with genres that are not appropriate for them. This may seem common sense, but it’s surprising how we choose a book by its cover only to find it too complicated to follow. You can even make library visits a monthly outing, encouraging your child to pick a book of their choice. This helps them feel a sense of ownership over their reading choices and fosters enthusiasm. What’s more, you’ll find that your child’s interests will develop and evolve over time and will open up conversations for topics of interest. If you want to explore before borrowing/buying, my favourite resource for understanding what the content contains is https://www.commonsensemedia.org.
Create a Cosy Reading Nook
A cosy corner just makes the experience of reading more exciting, even if it was a makeshift den. Transform a corner of your child’s room into a reading nook by adding soft pillows, a blanket, a few reading props or puppets and a special reading lamp. Make it a place they can’t resist. By dedicating a cosy space to reading, you create a welcoming environment that encourages reading as an enjoyable activity.
Be a Reading Role Model
Personally, I prefer reading a handheld book to screen time anytime, and this has followed on to my children but all mediums are welcome. Set aside dedicated “family reading time” where everyone reads their own book. We call it “Reading night” instead of Netflix night, and it always prepares us for better sleep and quality family time. We love talking about what we are currently reading and sharing stories. There is no doubt this brings in huge opportunities for bonding with your child. Seeing you immersed in a book sends a powerful message about the joys of reading to your child. It also fosters a culture of reading within your family, making it a shared and cherished activity. Here are couple of variations to try in your home:
• Set-up family book club. Choose a book that everyone has to read and then you get together to talk about it. Obviously, you will need to consider your child’s reading level and maybe choose a cooking book, fishing magazine or something easy to read with images.
• Siblings can be role models too! My older daughter used to love reading for her younger brothers and that really bonded them but she also inspired them with her passion.
It’s never too early to start reading to your child, and I started reading to my little bump right from when I was expecting. For young infants, explore soft cloth books with contrasting images and colours to train your child to focus. As your child grows, graduate to board books with simple stories and textures to touch and explore. Even books that make sounds are fun and engaging. Starting early introduces them to the concept of books and reading as a comforting and enjoyable experience. As your child grows into their pre-teens and teens, their interests will change dramatically, and it’s no longer a case of what you choose for them will work. Then, it’ll be time to make a trip to the library to explore more variety to continue their passion for reading.
Make It Interactive
While reading to your child, ensure to ask questions like, “What do you think will happen next?” or “Can you find the red truck in the picture?” This keeps your child engaged in the story. Interactive reading not only enhances comprehension but also makes reading a dynamic and enjoyable experience. According to Speech and Language UK, “1.9 children are behind with their talking and understanding of words” (Source: https://speechandlanguage.org.uk/media/4703/listening-to-unheard-children-report-final.pdf). It’s staggering, to say the least. To reduce this comprehension gap, continuing to talk to them as they grasp new concepts and ask open-ended questions while reading together is key to developing their vocabulary.
Vary Reading Materials
There’s so much more out there than back in our day, that it’s worth exploring all kinds of mediums for stories that will ignite a passion for reading. Try listening to an audiobook during car rides or while preparing meals. Discuss the story afterwards to make it a shared experience. Audiobooks can introduce children to storytelling in a different way, making it accessible even during busy times. We’ve loved exploring talking books with www.vooks.com, and although it is screen time, I’d say it’s quality screen time that will encourage your child to love more books. We’ve enjoyed how it includes a lot of the books for free – perfect for deciding if this method works for you and your child.
Reading is more than books and magazines can be of great learning and inspiration too. My boys used to love Lego magazines and when they were ten years they loved fishing magazines. Also, cartoons are a great way to inspire reading and my kids used to love reading (watching) Tin Tin, Asterix and Obelix – which were above their reading level but because they enjoyed it they learned so much from it.
Try story props.
Story props work like magic and engage your child on a new level when exploring stories. They enhance books by building creativity and further interest in your child’s favourite story, but here’s the thing. You don’t need to buy any expensive puppets or objects to supplement your child’s reading experience. For example, for a story like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a selection of fruit and a long sock as a puppet can work well and be a lot of fun, enabling your child to explore the story with creativity.
Visit the library!
Separate from our suggestion above in finding age-appropriate books with a librarian, libraries are awesome when it comes to book events. Participate in library events like story time sessions. Many libraries host interactive story hours where children can engage with books in a group setting. These sessions often include songs, movement, and hands-on activities related to the stories, making it a social and enriching experience.
If you are looking for cheaper books, consider second hand shops that offer a great way to save money while investing in books your child can enjoy.
Create your own stories based on your child’s interests. For example, if they love animals, invent tales about adventures in the jungle with talking animals. Storytelling sessions allow you to tailor stories to your child’s preferences, making them more engaging and personalised. Our Free Story Cards, available here: (https://www.edulinxs.club/opt-in-9586f584-f471-4f49-b618-e13bd2a4f3b5) are perfect for this activity where you can explore a different story each time using the beautiful watercolour pictures that create adventures only you and child can decide.
Be Patient with Pronunciation
If you encounter a challenging word, break it down together. For instance, with the word “butterfly,” say, “But-ter-fly,” emphasizing on each syllable. This demonstrates that it’s okay to encounter unfamiliar words and encourages your child to tackle them with confidence. It is important that your child feels comfortable to explore new words as early readers and that they are gently guided to the correct pronunciation. But we can’t know how to pronounce every word in the dictionary accurately and this is where the trusted pronunciation on google comes handy! So, try looking up different words together and this will make your approach with your child relaxed and welcoming, building curiosity for more reading.
Embrace Their Interests
If your child is fascinated by space, read books together about planets and astronauts. You can even stargaze together and connect it to what you’ve read. Incorporating their interests into reading not only makes it more enjoyable but also reinforces the idea that books can provide information and answers to their questions. As a Montessori practitioner I’ve seen with my students and my children, following your child’s interests can only have a positive impact to their passions and help them become the interesting individuals that they are.
Make Reading a Routine
Establish a bedtime reading routine. Choose calming stories that signal it’s time to wind down before sleep. Consistency in reading routines helps children associate reading with comfort and relaxation, making it an integral part of their daily lives. But reading does not always need to be associated with bedtime and can be perfect for after breakfast on the weekend, too!
Allow spontaneous reading sessions and have magazines, newspapers and books on the dinner table, in the bathrooms or in the car. This way they see them, get used to them and more likely to pick them up and scan through them and later read them.
Celebrating gives your child a huge boost and sense of achievement, even if it means they recognised one letter in the text. Create a “Reading Achievement Chart” where your child can place a sticker for every book completed. After a certain number of stickers, celebrate with a special treat like an extra book or an outing. Celebrating reading milestones not only provides motivation but also reinforces the idea that reading is an achievement to be proud of.
Join a Reading Community
Look for online forums or Facebook groups where parents share book recommendations and reading activities. Engaging in discussions with other parents can be inspiring. It allows you to discover new books and reading strategies while connecting with a community that shares your passion for fostering a love for reading in children.
Remember, it’s okay to have moments of uncertainty when reading to your child. What matters most is your willingness to explore, engage, and nurture your curiosity. Whether it’s through traditional books, storytelling, or digital formats, the goal is to create a positive reading experience that ignites a lifelong passion for books. With each of the tips mentioned above, you are bound to increase your bonding and improve your child’s confidence to enjoy books. So, even if you get to spend 10 minutes a day exploring a story, know there are many avenues to creating a passion for books that will improve your child’s academic journey and you can do it.
Happy reading with your child.
Founder of Edulinxs Club, Online Preschool Learning Programs
Where learning reaches every child.