Readers are made, not born. And the good news? The recipe is really pretty simple …
Step One: Be the reader you want to see
If you or your partner rarely pick up a book, rest assured your child will get the message loud and clear. Reading is a habit - and a contagious one. Not reading is too. Of course you need to surround your children with good books. But the grown-ups need to give themselves the same gift. Which is exactly why the experts speak with one voice on this one: When it comes to reading, be the change you want to see.
Step Two: Read aloud (because there is no substitute)
It’s interesting. You would think that all the words kids hear from TV and videos would be more than enough exposure to language and literacy. But you’d be wrong. Research shows that the impact of live, in-person, face-to-face reading aloud is the secret sauce for developing minds.
Step Three: Fill up their senses
Show them how much fun reading can be by involving all of their sensory equipment. “Noisy books” aren’t cheating - they’re engaging. Ditto flap books, books with texturised illustrations, or scratch-n-sniff sections. Give ‘em all the bells and whistles early, and the association BOOK = FUN will last a lifetime.
Step Four: Make storytime anytime
Ever notice how many kids’ books end with the main character falling asleep? No prizes for guessing why! In most families, books are as much a part of the bedtime ritual as bath-teeth-and-PJs. And that’s great. But don’t fall into the trap of restricting reading to day’s end.
Ever notice how many kids' books end with the main character falling asleep?
Daytime stories offer an opportunity to sit close and focus - while you both still have energy - and are a natural alternative to more screen-time.
Step Five: Show respect
Does your child only want to hear stories with lots of poo and bum jokes? Or maybe you have a toddler who insists on hearing the same boring (to you) books about varieties of earthmoving equipment, day after day. OK, so sure, you’ll want to try to gently expand their literary horizons. But at the same time, accept - and value (or at least pretend to) - their interests and opinions too.
Step Six: Welcome disruption
Remember, your job here is to create engagement and foster happy associations. So don’t get so focused on the words on the page that you shut down your child’s questions and interruptions because “I just need to finish this.” Actually, you don’t.
Step Seven: Never, ever stop
Many parents make the (understandable) mistake of ending storytime once a child can read on her own. “Being read to is an enormous comfort and part of your bond,” write Pamela Paul and Maria Russo, authors of How to Raise a Reader. And remember, too, that “there is no ‘correct’ age for independent reading," they add.
“If you’ve been focused on raising a reader all along, you can feel confident that your child is taking the steps toward independent reading at the pace that’s personally right.”
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