Inspiring Young Children to Read

August 7, 2013

Parenting Tips: Inspiring Young Children to Read

Originally posted on Eastern Arizona Courier onWednesday, August 7, 2013 12:00 am By Debbie A. Heaton columnist

The importance of reading early to young children is essential to brain development. Why? Because 90 percent of eventual brain growth is achieved in the first three years of a child’s life. A child develops language skills long before being able to speak, literacy skills precede reading, and to top it all off, reading books helps in the development of healthy physical and emotional responses.

Reading often and early to your young child also helps to ensure they enter kindergarten with a strong ability to read and an eagerness to learn. The benefits don’t end there. Did you know that reading to young children also helps to strengthen the literacy level in your community as well as promoting parent-child interaction and bonding?

With all of these benefits to gain, reading to your child is clearly one of the most important activities parents can engage in. But for many parents, the question is, “How do I get my child to take an interest in reading?”

It’s easy really — just make reading a fun part of your family’s routine with these suggestions:
Read to your child early and often

Reading to a baby is much different than reading to a toddler or preschooler. Sometimes it involves just “reading” the pictures, or simply narrating what you see. Depending on the child’s personality, development, and attention span, you may find different kids wanting or needing different types of reading. Be patient, try different things, and most importantly, continue to expose your child to good books.

Say yes more often

Children read more and learn best when they’re allowed to select their own reading material. Keeping this in mind, it isn’t hard to inspire kids to read — it’s hard to get them to read the books you want them to read. Want some good advice? Take your child to the library or bookstore once a week and let him decide what he wants to read. That means not objecting if he chooses something you find silly. After all, what you really want is for your child to develop a love of reading, and that’s unlikely to happen if you’re forcing him to read about things he’s not interested in. If he’s having trouble choosing, suggest one of these favorites: “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, “The World According to Humphrey” by Betty G. Birney, the “A to Z Mysteries” series by Ron Roy, and “Gooney Bird Greene” by Lois Lowry.

Make it special

You want your child to be as enthusiastic about reading as he is about splashing around in the swimming pool or riding his bike. So you’ve got to sell it a little — at least until he gets so hooked that you have to pry him away to do something else. You can entice reluctant readers with drop everything and read time. You simply shout “Read time!” once a day and everyone in the family (including you) grabs a book and reads for at least 15 minutes. Make cozy nooks around the house with colorful beanbags, pillows, and a few books or set up a reading tent in the backyard.

Read aloud

Children of all ages love to listen when books are read aloud. Reading aloud builds fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension in children of all ages. Not only is it ideal for increasing a child’s literacy, it’s a great way to build relationships and encourage conversation.

Encourage vocabulary and word learning

A broad vocabulary is important for effective speaking, listening, reading, and writing. In addition, vocabulary influences fluency, comprehension, and school achievement. When your child is young, you’ll want to build vocabulary orally through everyday activities. Talk, talk, and talk some more. You can also write those words so that your child continues to make the connection between listening, speaking, writing, and reading. Magnetic alphabet letters can be utilized to write words on the refrigerator while your young child helps you make lunch thus helping him build a connection between what he hears and sees.

Think beyond books

Don’t forget about all the other text in your child’s world. When you’re at the playground, grocery store, or amusement park, encourage him to look carefully at the signs. A book may overwhelm new, reluctant readers, but if they’re just reading about their favorite animal at the zoo, they’re more motivated because they really want to understand what the words say.

Be a good example

It’s hard to encourage your child to read if you’re not reading yourself. A good novel or an informative magazine will serve the purpose and model the importance of literacy to your child. It’s a practical plan to keep books, magazines, and newspapers around the house. Remember, children model the behavior of their parents and caregivers. If parents are reading, children are more likely to be inspired to read as well.

Start a book collection

Establish a home library and find a tiny corner of your home where your child can keep a few books of his own. This doesn’t need to be elaborate, but there is something comforting about a well-worn volume that a child can call his own.

The Safford City-Graham County Library sponsors Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Funded by First Things First, this program provides a free book to each child registered in the program. Each month a new, carefully selected book will be mailed in your child’s name directly to your home thus providing your child with a library of their own that they can access whenever they want to read. Children tend to read more when books are available at all times. This program is available to families with children ranging from birth to 5 and residing in Graham and Greenlee counties. If your child is not already signed up, stop by the library and complete a registration form. The program is both free and beneficial to your child so why not become involved — there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

By reading to your child regularly during their early years, you are giving them the biggest boost toward a successful education they will ever get. Children that are exposed to books at a young age are more inclined to be interested in reading later on, thus ensuring them every opportunity to develop to their fullest potential. Build reading into your daily routine and find creative ways to make it fun. So what are you waiting for? Go out and inspire your child to read.

Debbie A. Heaton is an author, parent educator, and a master’s level therapist currently employed with The Parent Connection, a member of Arizona’s Children Association Family of Agencies. The Parent Connection utilizes the Adlerian approach to parenting.

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