If you love to read, it’s likely you hope that passion will be passed on to your children. You can play an important part in creating an eager reader before they ever step into a school classroom. More than just an enjoyable hobby, reading is the key to success in school and life. It is critical – yes, that’s a strong word – that you encourage a desire to read in your children now, and work with them to build a strong foundation of literacy skills before they enter school.
Numerous studies confirm the benefits for children whose parents read to them between the ages of two and five. Improved thinking and communication skills, mastery of language, enhanced concentration and imagination, and improved parent/child relationships are all positive outcomes from reading together early on.
But most importantly, early reading sets the stage for academic excellence. According to multiple studies, students exposed to reading in their early years are more likely to do well in all facets of their education. The ability to use words and sentences helps not only with English language arts, but also in grasping math, science and social concepts in elementary school.
So, what can you do with your toddler or preschooler to encourage, motivate and excite them about words and reading?
- Word play is fun. Rhyming and word games, singing silly songs, or writing poems and stories together are great activities that build a love for words.
- Talk about your daily experiences and encourage story telling in your family. This helps children strengthen their language skills.
- Let young children see you reading. Show them how people use reading all the time by reading newspapers, street signs, store signs, billboards, menus and package labels aloud.
- Encourage older children to read to their younger brothers and sisters. Maybe the whole family can spend time reading together.
- Your local librarian can be your best friend. Visit often. Get your kids their own library cards, and allow children to pick the books they want to read. Take advantage of free programs and story hours designed for your child’s age range.
- Create a home library. You can find affordable books at yard sales, library book sales and secondhand bookstores. Lots of people happily pass along books that their children have outgrown. Ask your friends. Set up a place in your home where several options for reading are within your child’s easy reach.
- Encourage writing by providing paper, crayons and an appropriate place to scribble and draw.
- Carry books with you everywhere. Help your child discover that reading is a perfect way to pass the time. Going for a ride? Check out books on tape to listen to on the road.
- There are several magazines designed to appeal to early learners. Consider a subscription as a gift, and read it together every month. Weekly Reader, National Geographic Little Kids, Highlights Hello (toddlers), Highlights High Five (ages 2-6), Baby Bug, Zootles, Ranger Rick Junior and Sesame Street are a few of dozens of publications designed for preschool children.
Once your child starts showing interest in reading and books, a book, gift certificate or a trip to the bookstore makes a perfect gift.
- Visit the Between the Lions website for more on children and reading.
- The Children’s Reading Foundation offers advice for parents and caregivers on how to build strong reading skills in their children.
- The U. S. Department of Education offers a long list of reading resources.
- Help for struggling readers can be found at Reading Rockets .
- The Library of Congress online is packed with resources for parents and children of all ages.
- Read.gov especially focuses on developing reading skills.