What’s the most important thing you would like to develop in your child? For a lot of parents it is to build intelligence. Did you know that the importance of reading at an early age is essential to building intelligence? Learning to read, and having access to a wide range of books at an early age is essential to language development in children. The earlier a child learns to read the better their language learning skills are as they grow. There are things that you can do early on to start your child off even when they are too young to read. Reading to your children as early as possible will not only help your child reach academic performance when they are older but will also help build a stronger relationship with you. Studies have shown that adults who were read to as children are more successful in their adult life than those who were not. Here are 5 tips on how to read successfully to your child.
1. GET COMFORTABLE. Stories have been told and read for me immemorial because they are pleasurable and because sharing them draws people together. This is not necessarily obvious to children. At home, it’s good to mix reading with warmth and affection. We try to express that in the way we sit. We tuck in on the couch or in a comfy chair. Or we lie on the living room floor, all of us, while I read aloud. Even if your child is behind in reading and there’s pressure to make progress, try to make reading time feel comfortable and caring.
2. READ SLOWLY. When kids are young its good to stop for a couple of seconds about every half page or so when reading, especially to the youngest kiddos. Sometimes the words and the story are more complex than they are used to. Parents should want to give their children time to absorb it. Parents don’t have to do much to show their children they are reading well. Sometimes just nod and smile or kiss the of the top of their head is all that’s needed. And then keep reading. Read slowly too. Nice and steady to let the words sink in. There’s no rush.
3. GIVE THEM A FEW WORDS TOO. My kids used to love it when I said, “And the next chapter is called…” and they get to read the title of the chapter to me. Look for little moments when your child can help you read a more advanced book and see that it’s within his or her range someday. Even if it’s just reading the word ‘I’ or ‘and,’ it helps. “See, you’re on your way!” is a powerful message.
4. EXPRESS YOURSELF (as much as you can). The power of reading aloud for kids is in developing their ear for language, for what words sound like and how sentences work. Capturing that is key and it’s simpler than it might sound. You don’t have to act out the roles and make it theater, you just have to capture the sound of language and the cadence of words—which ones run together, which ones get a bit of emphasis.
5. DON’T FREAK OUT. Ok maybe you’re great at reading aloud. But maybe you’re not. Maybe you fear it. Is it ok if you’re not confident in your own reading? Yes. But more important than telling you it’s okay I want to suggest a way to make you feel more confident and therefore more likely to read to your kids: preview the section you are going to read. The night before you read to your child, take the book to bed and read the part you’ll read the next night. If you’ve read it through beforehand, you’ll remember even if you don’t realize it. Please know that I do this all the time, even though I am a former English teacher and principal. I like to know where the book is going and to be ready for tough spots or content that’s challenging. It just makes me feel confident to know where things are going. If you’re nervous about reading, it will help you as well. As will starting simply. I know—I said read challenging books. But you can always build up to them. Reading to your child is a marathon not a sprint so it’s fine if you need some me to build your own comfort and skill. Just please don’t let that fear stand between your child and what will help them most.
Looking for some great books to read to your children? Check out this Amazon link for great reads.
Doug Lemov (with co-authors Colleen Driggs and Erica Woolway) is the author of Reading Reconsidered: A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy. For more information, please visit, www.teachlikeachampion.com and connect with Doug on Twitter, @douglemov.