The Power Of Reading: Age-Appropriate Tips For Teaching Young Children To Love Reading
By Rosemary Burton, Ph.D.
Reading to your child every day is the best single way to insure that he or she develops a lifelong love for reading. The key is to introduce your child to books that are developmentally appropriate, and to share your love of reading through daily reading together. This creates a lasting bond and a time you will both cherish.
Here are some tips for getting started:
1. Read to Your Baby – The love of books can begin in the first year of life. Babies love to sit on the lap of someone they love and look together with them at pictures in a book. At first, they are simply content to hear the sound of their loved one’s voice telling them about what they see. The baby responds with smiles, a gaze at the adult, and then a reach for the book. The best books for babies are made of cloth or vinyl and include large realistic photographs of familiar objects, animals, or people. As babies get old enough to imitate their favorite adult, they will attempt to turn the pages, sometimes forward and sometimes back. This is ok. The baby is learning how books work. The adult should point at pictures and name them. The baby will eventually point too, make a sound that may or may not resemble the name for the picture, and then look at the adult for reassurance. This back and forth interaction about the content of the book is the beginning of understanding that the picture symbols on the page can stand for objects in real life.
2. Take Time with Your Toddler – As your child moves into the toddler years, that special book time becomes even more important. Looking at a book together means that the child has uninterrupted one-on-one time with their special person. This makes book reading an emotionally satisfying experience. Good books at this age are best made of cardboard to withstand wear and tear. They have simple pictures and often have a simple repeating story line and this story line often rhymes. The Eric Carle books are great favorites at this age. “Brown Bear, Brown Bear. What do you see? I see a Red Bird looking at me.” The two-year-old will ask for their favorite book to be read over and over again. This is ok. The child is learning that the story is forever recorded on the printed pages of the book and does not change. The child also begins to remember how the story goes and what comes next. He may turn the pages himself, saying the words before you do. The child is learning what reading is about and that it is enjoyable.
3. Get Preschoolers Primed with Children’s Classics – Preschool children are ready for picture books. They are not too old to sit on the lap of an adult but may also choose to sit on a chair or bed next to the adult. Preschool years are the years of the bedtime story. These are memorable times when children listen to a satisfying story with intriguing pictures that an adult reads right before bed. The best books have simple stories about a main character with a problem that needs to be resolved. There is a rise to a climax and the end is satisfying. Good story endings tell the child right before going to sleep that all is right with the world. The best stories can be reread upon request from the child. Often the best stories are Caldecott medal winners and honorees. These are award-winning books that stand the test of time.
4. Keep On Reading Once They Start School – When children enter school, the habit of reading together should not disappear. Children who have begun life reading every day never get tired of sharing a book with their favorite person. Choose longer books and talk about the book at length with the child. Why do you think the character did that? What would you have done? It is also possible to read next to a child, both of you reading your own book. This quiet reading time under a reading lamp snuggled on a couch together can even take the place of television for part of the evening. It creates memories of pleasant times together that the child will repeat many times over his life, eventually doing the same thing with his own child.
Reading together with your child at any age is a powerful experience for both of you. In the busyness of modern day life, taking a few moments out of the day to have a dedicated story time with a child has many positive effects. It builds a love of reading in your child. It relaxes both of you. And it creates wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.
Because Minnieland Academy is aware of the importance of pleasant reading experiences in a child’s life, the company is hosting the annual 1-2-3-Read training event for teachers of young children. Minnieland is donating space at its corporate office so that the Infant Toddler Network, through a grant from the federal government, can train teachers in the community to develop a love of reading in young children while they are in child care settings. On two Saturdays in September, teachers from Minnieland and from other schools throughout the area spend a total of 12 hours learning techniques for involving children and their families in reading experiences. Later this year, all Minnieland schools will participate in Read for the Record, a national day of reading to young children. The management and staff of Minnieland programs are passionate about providing reading opportunities for all children, both in Minnieland schools and in the community outside of its doors.
Rosemary Burton, Ph.D., has over 30 years of experience developing training, curriculum and standards in early childhood education. Dr. Burton is Vice President of Accreditation and Industry Relations for Minnieland Academy, which provides quality education and childcare at 60 locations in Northern Virginia. Learn more at Minnieland.com.