Before children can read by themselves, they must be read to. If you want your child to love reading then you must read to her when she is young. Not only will your child grow to love reading, she will also develop other skills such as listening skills, language skills and story structure.
If your child has never been read to then it is unlikely that she will sit still long enough for you to read to her. If she cannot sit still then she will not be able to listen to the story. This is what I’ve noticed.
I can tell when a child has been read to or not. Every time I take a book out to read, the child who has not been read to will not show any interest and not focus on the story or will wander away. But for the child who has been read to, he will give his undivided attention and listen intently. When the story is finished he will excitedly request for a rereading of it.
This is how you want your child to be. You want her to be excited by books and want to listen to the story. When a child listens to a story being read, she will learn how words are combined to make a sentence and how a story is sequenced.
Follow these tips to establish a reading ritual with your child:
1. Choose age appropriate books. For babies, it’ll be board or cloth books with big bright contrasting pictures. For toddlers, it’ll be books with labels so they can point to things and say what they are. For preschoolers, it’ll be children’s picture books. For older children, choose books that are about 1 to 2 levels above them so they can listen and learn a more sophisticated way of writing and storytelling.
2. Find a comfortable place. It is a requirement that you read to your child in a comfortable place away from distractions. Turn everything off so you both can relax and get into the story. An armchair or on the rug with some cushions is usually the place to read. The other favourite place for reading is on your child’s bed just before sleep (otherwise known as the bedtime story).
3. Read the title and discuss the cover. Before you start to read, take a look at the cover and talk about the pictures then read the title, author and illustrator. It’s important to talk about the author and illustrator because it lets your child know that books are written and illustrated by someone and that they too can be an author or illustrator.
4. Ask pertinent questions. To check for understanding and deep thinking, you can ask questions and for opinions. You can wait until the end of the story to discuss it or you could ask a few very important questions during the story as long as they don’t interrupt the flow of the story.
5. Make the book available. After you have finished reading the book to your child, leave it on the bookshelf for your child to access it any time she wants. Children often like to revisit what is familiar to them. Once a book is read they will want to look at it again and again. This will help them to internalise the story and its structure.