Reading to your child from a young age is a simple way to create a bond, not just between you and your child, but also between your child and books. Most parents recognise the importance of reading to their kids.
Reading is a way to kickstart their early brain development. Children who are read to on a daily basis are more also likely to develop strong language skills and early cognitive skills. This then sets them up for academic success a little later in life.
Here are five tips for reading to your child:
Let your child choose his/her books. Whether you are going to the library or bookstore, or looking online, letting your child choose whatever he or she is interested in will make it an even more enjoyable and interesting experience.
Make it part of your daily routine. Many parents often pick bedtime to read to their kids as it’s a great way to unwind at the end of the day. During this time together, make the effort to go beyond the scope of the book. Besides just looking at the pictures and pointing things out, perhaps you can ask some questions. What was his/her favourite character and why? Would he/her have done something differently than the character?
Follow the text with your finger as you read aloud. Even for young children, this teaches basic things about language such as: a sentence goes from left to right, there are spaces between words, there are spaces between paragraphs, etc.
Be dramatic with your voice, perhaps change your voice for different characters. For example, the characters for Winnie the Pooh all have very distinct speech patterns. Pooh has a slow, husky voice, Rabbit is brisk and nervous. Tigger has a whooping laugh, and Piglet speaks with a stammer.
Read it again! If your child has really enjoyed a particular book, read it again! And again! And again! Sure, it might drive you bananas, remember that you are helping them to develop language skills and comprehension. Perhaps you could try stopping in places to see if they remember how the sentence ends, or what their favourite character says next. This also boosts their active listening skills once they catch on that they’re expected to do more than lie back and relax.
What to do when you come across new words?
Stopping to explain every single unfamiliar word in a book could become a time consuming process! One suggestion to tackle this is to only explain a few words and then read the book again on another day and explain other words. This way you can build their vocabulary without losing your pace in the narrative, or confusing your child.
Janice Zheng is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. Born and raised in Singapore, she has also lived in Vietnam, China and Australia. She has written and edited across a variety of genres including hard news, feature articles, technical and specifications writing and press releases. Her coverage of a 2009 Australian oil spill disaster and its impact on the marine environment earned her a nomination to the Professional Online Writers Guild. In 2013, her family moved to China for her husband’s work. She joined the expatriate women’s volunteer-based society and wrote prolifically for its print publications and contributed to other expatriate magazines. Since her return to Australia, Janice has turned to writing and blogging about parenthood.