What’s the one thing that can make the biggest difference in getting your little one ready for school and a life of successful learning? It’s simple, fun, and provides hours of quality time: IT'S READING!
From an educational preparedness point of view, one of the best things you can do for your young children is to sit on the floor with them in your lap and read book after book together. Here are a few tips to creatively create some great reading time at home or on the move.
Start them young! Infants love hearing your voice and are captivated by the world around them, so simple books with engaging illustrations or photos will hook them for a life of reading. Babies love to look at other babies, animals, objects, and colors.
Helpful Hint: Clip books onto the stroller and car seat, and add waterproof books to the bath toys. If books are everywhere, they will be drawn to them for life.
Oh, the growth that happens in a toddler’s life! This is where your little ones will really learn to love reading. The best educational tool that kids have through about age 11 is their ability to memorize, and they can take in information like sponges. Do they love rhyme? Silly words or big trucks? Whatever it is, start there and read them over and over (and over) again - as often as they like! We have a friend whose son was enchanted by a tool catalog so they read it over and over again! While you may tire of the repetition, they never will as it’s how they learn, so pull them onto your lap and read for as long as the wiggles stay away.
Helpful Hint: This is a good age range to introduce these little readers to the local library - they have thousands of books to choose from. Some libraries and bookstores even have a weekly 'story time' where a volunteer reads a story to a group of kids. Parents can enjoy a break while someone else does the reading for a change.
Now it's really getting fun! Your preschooler will probably repeat all the books to you and “read” along. Encourage that! They will develop their own curiosity and start wondering which of those crazy symbols correlate to the sounds and words they hear, and before you know it they’ll start to recognize letters and then words.
Helpful Hint: Books on tape or CD (am I dating myself?) are a great tool at this age, as kids can follow the story as it’s read and turn the pages when prompted. Anyone remember the chime?
Once children are reading on their own, consider reading more difficult stories together. Get appropriate books they can read on their own, and also set aside time to read more challenging books with them. A great place to start might be the Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis.
Helpful Hint: Your school librarian will also be a great resource for books that are age and reading-level appropriate for your kids.
Reading may seem to be a very simple part of learning, but really it’s the most important. Reading opens up entire worlds of information and imagination, so never discount the weight it holds in your child’s development. Whatever you’re reading with your child, we hope you treasure the time together. Happy reading!