read to your bunny.

Reading to your child every day is the single most important thing you can do to create a lifelong love of books and ensure school success. Parenting a small child is a full time job, yet research shows that the first five years of life are crucial to language learning.  So how do you find time to incorporate reading to an active, inquisitive child into an already hectic schedule? Here are some tips that help fit reading into your daily routine with a limited amount of stress.

It’s never too early to start reading to a child. Reading can be a wonderful bonding opportunity. Hold your child while you read to her and she will grow up associating books with the warmth of your body and being held. One way to read to an infant is to put him on your chest facing up, and then lie down and hold the book up above you.

We often think that we have to read the text as printed in the book. Follow your child’s lead. If he’s flipping through the pages, point to a picture and name it.

Choose books that are developmentally appropriate. Really little ones enjoy concept books and bright colors. Relate the their experience. Point and name the objects in the picture: “this is a cup” or “this is a bottle, you drink from the bottle” or something associated with their routine. As they get older, you can choose books that have increasing text and a more sophisticated plot.

Reading is not restricted to sitting in a lap. While some children enjoy this, others, particularly active and curious children, are unable to sit still for an entire book. Read to them while they’re walking around, playing with leggos, or investigating a new toy. They are still listening.  Seize opportune moments, such as when your child is in a highchair or the bath, to get in some reading time. There are waterproof books designed explicitly for this purpose.

Expand the definition of reading. Rhymes, songs and just talking to your child are wonderful ways to bring language into their daily life. You don’t have to be a rockstar to sing to your child.  Children naturally respond to the rhythm of language and love the sound of your voice.

Make your reading time a fun, exciting adventure.  Move to the rhythm of the text or find a songbook.  Add motions and an expressive voice to bring the book to life.

Find the hook. Children express genre preferences early on so find the subject that engages and interests your child. If you’ve gone to the zoo and they love animals, read them a story about an animal.  If they like cooking, help them read the recipe. Reading can be in various formats, whether it’s a computer game, an iPad app or a magazine.

Add a reading or language component to an everyday activity. Talk or sing while you’re changing a diaper. Listen to a book on tape while driving. Keep a book in the car for unexpected free time, such as waiting at a doctor’s office.  Grocery stores are another great opportunity for literacy learning. Have your child help you write a list beforehand, even if it’s just contributing ideas. Upon arrival, talk about what you see, pointing out signs and favorite foods.

Find text in your environment. Letters in a child’s name and letters in family member’s names are their first core alphabet. Those are the letters they’ll learn first, so have them look for those. Look for letters in passing cars’ license plates. Have them find the “m” in McDonalds or the “t” in ToysRus.

Establish a nighttime ritual. Reading or just looking at a picture book together can be a soothing end to a busy day. Curl up with your little one and start a lifetime of shared moments with reading with someone you love.

How do you integrate reading into your child’s life? What’s your family’s reading routine?

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Written by Marilyn Levin

Founder and director of READ New Orleans, a program for parents and children aged 6 months to 5 years that focuses on fostering a lifelong love of language and books.

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Comments

  1. Love this article. My mom, who has been teaching special ed. for 40 years, reads daily to her 7th and 8th graders at Roosevelt Middle School. The classroom is full of kids with moderate behavioral and learning problems. It’s the only time of day when she has everyone’s attention, and everyone is listening at once. EVERYONE benefits from being read to.

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