Reading to our children is important for their development, their future success, and even their critical and creative thinking. Here are some ways that we can help our little ones grow into lifelong readers.
We all know the importance of reading, but how can we give our children the best opportunity of becoming lifelong readers, ultimately giving them a leg up in life?
I grew up in a household where reading was an afterthought, possibly even seen as work -- a school requirement, a manual or "how-to" guide, or the occasional, shame-filled Bible glance. Not seeing anyone in my family read, I believe, lowered the esteem of books in my view as a young person and had an influence on my lack of interest in reading, especially for any kind of enjoyment.
On the other end of that, my wife and I are now avid readers, and it's always a proud parenting moment when our daughter walks into the space carrying one of her favorite books, lays down on the floor, cracks it open, and reads silently along with us, even if it's only for a few minutes.
Before we get to the list, I want to add that there are some AWESOME resources at the bottom of the page, so please don't be afraid to go down the rabbit hole!
**For a list of children's books to get your little reader started, check out 16 Children's Books We Absolutely Love (ages 0-3+), a selection of our favorites from Luna's first three years.
**Check out the first video of our series, Reading with Luna: We Are Music by Brandon Stosuy, where we read one of our favorites and put Luna on the mic!
Helpful Tips on Raising a Little Bookworm
1. Become a Reader Yourself (if you read already, consider reading more):
It's important for young children to see positive habits and behaviors modeled instead of merely encouraged. If a child sees the importance of books in the lives of the parental figures, they are more likely to place importance on books in their own lives.
We often lounge around the living room on Sunday mornings reading with quiet music playing in the background. By now, Luna has become so used to these Sunday morning routines that when she sees us reading, she takes it as a cue to bring her own book into the living room, sit on the couch with us, and dig into one of her favorites. It is nice to have quiet time where we are all together but separate, lost in our own worlds.
2. Make Sure Your Child Has Access to Their Books:
When I say access to the books, I mean physical access, where they can REACH their own books. Children, and especially toddlers, play with what they can get their hands on. If they don't have access to their books, they most likely won't come to you and ask to read, they'll just find something else to play with.
The same is true for the reverse; have an easily accessible "library" of books available within reach, and you'll find more often than not that your child will read at all hours of the day. We can't count how many times we've walked in on Luna playing in her room with stacks of books surrounding her and her face jammed in an open book.
3. ReRead, and Read Differently:
Rereading is a great way of encouraging your child to read what they like, not only what's new or next on the list; it shows them that reading is also for enjoyment and not just for knowledge or to pass the time; it shows them that there's always something new they can learn, even if it's from the same book they've read countless times.
Rereading also builds familiarity and allows your child to join in on the story because they know it well enough to recall what's next (by the way, ALLOW your child the opportunity to join in and recall and predict what will happen next).
Also, read the story differently from time to time. By this, we mean to use different voices, ask different questions, maybe sing the book instead of reading it -- get creative, and have fun!
If you show your child that you can have fun with reading, they'll feel encouraged to have fun with it too. You'll also be giving them a big boost in the development of their imaginations while you're at it!
**For an example of some fun reading, check out our video, Reading with Luna: We Are Music by Brandon Stosuy
4. Read While Out and About:
Street signs, restaurant names, bus ads (when appropriate), etc. Show your child that the whole world is filled with words and that words hold very special meanings in society.
The added bonus on this one is that the world is filled with signs (another language in and of itself). Your children will begin associating signs with specific words and actions, and isn't that what helps society run a heck of a lot smoother in the first place?
5. Talk With Your Child Often:
Your children are sponges; show them your vocabulary and allow them to soak it up. Human language is an extremely versatile, beautiful, and important tool, and the more you use it, the more your child will want to expand their vocabulary to share in the magic of communication.
According to the research, The quantity of words spoken to a child in the first three years of life is strongly associated with a child’s language skills, vocabulary size and IQ later in life.
Also, be sure to give opportunities for your child to show you THEIR vocabulary; let your child dictate the topic of the conversation (they're more likely to talk more about something that interests THEM); and let your child create their own words from time to time -- go as far as to use their words to describe the object/action in question. It builds self-esteem and opens up the imagination.
6. Write at Home:
Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Show your children that they can create with letters and words.
If you hand-write grocery lists, notes, or even captions to drawings that you've created together (see #7), your child will be that much more exposed to the written word, placing higher importance on it in their minds.
This is a win-win... they learn to read THROUGH learning to write!
7. Draw With Them:
Want to help your child write? Let them draw! We sometimes forget the importance of drawing and its place as an avenue for human communication.
Research has also shown that drawing before beginning a writing exercise improves the students' ability to organize their thoughts. The two are connected because they are both modes of communication, perhaps even activating the same parts of the brain.
8. Visit Your Local Library:
Take your child to activities that involve reading just like you would with music or physical play. Showing children that reading is an activity worth traveling to emphasizes the importance of that activity (reading) and places it on the same level as baseball practice, dance class, music class, karate... you get the point!
We set aside time for all of these other activities, so let's begin setting aside specific time for reading!
9. Give POSITIVE Feedback to Your Children!
This last one may be obvious to most, but it's extremely important, so it has to be on this list!
Those same studies from #5 showed that children exposed to more positive feedback and statements in relation to negative feedback and statements had the highest language skills at age three and beyond.
**I want to add that positive feedback and statements in ALL areas of your child's development create massive increases across the board, so be kind to your children, encourage them, and make sure they know you're PROUD to be their parent/caregiver!
Having worked as a literacy instructor, I could go on and on for days about the importance of literacy in a child's (and adult's) life. We only scratched the surface, but to add a few other points:
Reading is consistently the number one "secret" that all successful people give.
The amount someone reads at an early age has been shown to be a significant predictor of future success.
And the more one reads has time and time again shown a correlation with higher IQ levels, problem-solving abilities, and even an increase in creative thinking.
Best of luck on your journey in raising a reader, and please feel free to connect with us on Instagram with any more suggestions you have found to be helpful!
The Early Catastrophe Study by Betty Hart and Todd R Risley - One of the most important studies ever done on Language and childhood development in language.
Goodreads.com - The best social site for readers; find recommendations, reviews, and more, all in one place.