Read together with your children - some tips
We all know how important it is to read to young children. It not only helps in enhancing language and reading abilities in your children and widens their knowledge base, but also helps you bond with your children. Reading to your child at all ages gives you an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with your child and be tuned to them.
How to select appropriate books for babies, toddlers and preschoolers
The common thread in classics
- They are short and simple and use everyday language.
- They have large pictures and few words on the page, and feature simple, attractive and gripping illustrations.
- It is important that the book be written by someone who specializes in writing for children (versus just a general celebrity writing a one-off children’s book).
- Many have an everyday context since very young minds are supposed to relate better to things around (the house, food, bath time, brushing teeth) them vs. abstract settings like exotic fairy tales. Kids do find animals fascinating though.
- Actually, many might have outlandish things/scenarios in comforting everyday settings. Examples in Goodnight Moon: “cow jumping over the moon”, “three little bears sitting on chairs”.
- They feature lots of rhythm and rhyme – poetry in its elements for the young ones who are more intuitive than conceptual.
- For toddlers it helps to have the thicker board book editions of these books so that they can flip through them easily.
- And of course for parents, who focus on learning. Apart from the fact, that kids love these classics, they are great foundations for learning - colours, shapes, texture, foster sense of rhyme and rhythm, language, reading, even early math and science skills - but in an amazingly intuitive, natural and subtle manner that kids lap up effortlessly and unconsciously.
Some tips on reading to young children
- Read slowly and clearly.
- Read the author's name as well. For example say: “Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown”.
- Read these again and again. Kids love and thrive on repetition and consistency and learn better by repetition as well.
- Don't focus only on the printed words. Refer to the illustrations around the words. You can ask questions about them or talk about them.
- Make reading interactive. Ask them questions.
- Once kids get familiar with the book, you could ask kids to complete the sentence. This way, you will encourage language skills in your child and keep the experience interactive.
- Follow the child’s lead. Try and read books and read about subjects that the child is interested in. Look at their eyes and expression and other cues from them. See what grips their attention, makes them laugh, are they bored etc. Do not just read mechanically in a monologue.
- You could personalize and add to the story and perhaps create your own rituals. For example, add a fictitious song like “jheenga la la, hey ho, hey ho” to the “Where Wild Things Are” in the scene where the wild things or monsters are dancing.
- Try to introduce variations into each reading. For example, in one, you can try to use different voices for different characters. In another reading, use various facial expressions. In another, play the "I Spy" game with objects on the page.
- Emphasize and dramatize but keep the general tone conversational.
- It is also a good idea, to point at the words as you read. This will help the child unconsciously associate the spoken word with the written word. It builds the foundation for reading. For example, when you say “goodnight moon”, point at word, “moon” or when you read the words “bang, boom, crash”, point the words. You will be surprised at how fast they learn to make out words (ie., sight reading) even before they formally learn to read.
- Should you translate in your mother tongue and read? It is not just the content and the story, but the language (rhyme, rhythm, figures of speech, rules of language, the sounds) and the written word and sound association that are important. Many of these important nuances might get lost if you do not read in the language in which the book was written. So it is preferrable that you read in the language the book is written. Try and look for books written in your mother tongue. There are many in the market these days.
- Do not make it a chore! Make it fun. Use it as a time to bond and cuddle with them as well.
- And last but not the least, enjoy yourself as well. Let your inner child come out and enjoy these precious moments of reading to your child to the full!
Share your special reading tips and experiences with the Parentree community.
One thing i had learnt about reading to a child is to sit along with them putting your arm around them as you sit....that way when they are older, reading a book will give them more solace because they have a positive association of feeling the parent's love being enveloped in their arms :)