Reading has always played an important part of my life. Some of my most fondest memories are of my Mom reading to me as a young child; I remember waiting in bed every night looking forward to reading the next chapter in our Pollyanna book. I don’t ever remember a time in my life where I wasn’t reading something; either for school or for pleasure. I love that you can be transported to another time, or place, or you can gain a new perspective on a topic through reading. My personal preference is fantasy and this was something that was cultivated in my life from an early age. Do you remember your caregiver reading to you? Was it something that was exciting or something that was forced? Reading stories aloud, if done the right way, will lead your child to a lifetime of enjoyment and knowledge. So let’s talk about reading to young children…..
I think the biggest question that I get asked is “when do we start reading to our children” and my answer is when you (or your partner) are pregnant! Did you know that your baby can hear sounds by 20 weeks? They have actually done studies about this and it was found that a baby who was read a specific book on a regular basis while in the womb, was able to recognize the sounds after they were born, and this act brought comfort to the baby (it actually lowered their heart rate!). Amazing, right?! So, start reading when you are pregnant and continue reading to them until they ask you to stop — just because they can read on their own, doesn’t mean that you can’t continue a nightly routine of reading to them. It is great for bonding with your child and will create a lifelong love for reading (or at least create some really amazing memories).
Some things to think about when Reading to your child:
Did you know that by reading 3 books a day, or spending about fifteen 15 minutes, will help to increase your child’s vocabulary, imagination, build speech patterns and language skills, and increase their knowledge about the world around them! Plus it is said that by reading to your children, you can help to close the achievement gap that permeates children of color and lower income families. The library is a great resource for new books!
How can we help our children learn to comprehend what is being read? A few tips; first introduce the story, tell them the title/look at the cover and ask questions like what do you think this book will be about? What are you noticing? Next, begin reading the story, make sure to think about your voice, tone, and intonation (the rise and fall of your voice). Provide commentary, ask them questions, listen and respond to their questions, talk about emotions and how the characters might feel, and lastly reflect on what happened in the book at the end. I usually try to ask an open-ended question to further promote understanding. On a side note, many parents and schools force their children into reading on their own too early and this results in a lack of comprehension. A child’s brain is not ready to do both, read and comprehend at the same time, until after age 7. So you are doing your child a disservice by trying too early (if only our Education system actually understood child development and the brain!!). So just relax, read to them, and try not to rush it. Childhood is a time for fun, not forced learning.
Do you struggle with reading skills yourself? That is ok! Your language will improve by reading aloud to your child. Honestly, your young child doesn’t really care what you are saying, they just like spending time with you and listening to your voice.
Reading to your child increases empathy! Yes, by reading to your child you are able to convey feelings and emotions — you are able to help them learn about perspective taking and an understanding of how others feel in different situations. Our world desperately needs more empathy and reading to your young child is one of the best ways to help lay the foundation for this skill.
Lastly, please read to your child from a paperback book, not on an electronic device. Studies have found when YOU read to your child they are able to focus more, ask questions, and be actively engage — this is where the learning happens, so stay away from automated books.
Here are a few of my favorite books:
So cuddle up and start reading with your child!
Breathing in the stories,