Reading is an acquired skill that your child must gradually learn how to do and an art that has to be cultivated and practiced over time. Though it will take your child years to learn how to read a book himself, he is ready to hear you read to him from almost the beginning of his life. As he grows and the two of you continue to share the experience of reading together, the bond you share will grow, too. Being read to from an early age conditions your child’s brain to associate the act of reading with pleasure. And children who enjoy books have a greater desire to learn how to read on their own. And children who enjoy reading become better readers and are more prepared for success in school and beyond.

How To Read:

Along with the difficulty of knowing what to read to your children, is knowing HOW to read to your child in order to make the most of your time and to be most effective. Many parents are concerned that they do not have enough time to read every day. But it really only takes a few minutes to enjoy this special time together and to talk about the story:

Preschool                     5 – 10 minutes

Kindergarten                 10 – 15 minutes

First to third grade         20 – 30 minutes

Some children find it difficult to sit still and will get restless after a few minutes. You can build their attention span by gradually increasing the amount of time you spend reading. Again, the earlier you begin your reading ritual and make reading a habit, the more natural and easy reading time will continue to be. If your child becomes disinterested in the middle of a book, keep in mind that you don’t have to finish a story in one sitting. The quality of the time you spend together is far more important than getting to the end of the book or how many pages you turn.

Familiar routine

Try to establish a familiar routine that your child can anticipate and look forward to. It’s a good idea to read to your child at the same time each day, whether that is after breakfast, before an afternoon nap, or at bedtime. Even if you can’t stick to a regular reading time, make your reading ritual regular and do it together at some point every day.

Create a space

I encourage parents to create a space for their reading ritual. Choose a place in your home where your child will be comfortable and cozy and warm. Before reading to your child, you may want to light a candle or sit down on a blanket – anything that separates reading time from the rest of the day and lets her know something special is about to happen.

Shared focus

Invite your child to climb on your lap or sit next to you so you can establish a shared focus on the book you’ve chosen and the words and pictures inside. Make sure that the two of you are looking at the book from the same perspective and that your child can easily see the pages.

Make Comment

Ask a few simple questions or make comments about what you’ve just read and point to the pictures. These communication checks will let you know if your child is following the story.

Speak slowly

Remember to speak slowly and to pause often as you read and talk together. Children must be given a chance to make sense of the information they have just heard and to prepare themselves for more. A moment of silence between thoughts is very powerful.

Pausing

Pausing gives a child the time she needs to build mental pictures of the story and follow the flow of the narrative. It is essential that your reading ritual becomes a rewarding and pleasurable time for both of you, rather than another chore on a long list of things to do. Make sure you’re ready to do your part – take a moment to turn off the television, your cell phone, the CD player, and any other distractions so that your environment is more conducive to listening.

Reading is a magical experience that opens up a whole new world of wonder. Stories can transport us to places that exist far outside the boundaries of ordinary reality and carry us through enchanted landscapes where anything is possible. But reading provides children with so much more than a window into the imagination. Books expand their perspective of the world and allow them to experience new concepts they would not otherwise encounter. Hearing stories read aloud is one of the most powerful ways for children to develop strong listening and language skills. I can’t stress enough the importance of these listening and language skills. Reading to your child, naturally and progressively, builds these listening skills and prepares your child for academic and social success.

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