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School is back in full swing, and our children are (or soon will be) coming home with reading assignments. When the work is done, though, do our kids collapse in front of the TV or do they go back to reading (gasp) for fun? We have all heard before how important reading is for ourselves and for our children, but how do we go about creating lifelong readers who not only read for information but also take pleasure in a good book?
1. It starts early! Did you know that reading to your child literally from day one can improve his or her vocabulary and grammar, as well as promote a love of reading? Babies and infants may not be able to truly understand every word you read to them, but they do understand your tone and they can see the pictures as you point to them. You’ll reap the rewards when your child starts talking and they may surprise you early on!
2. It keeps going: Once children are past the cardboard books, reading aloud to them is still super important! Choose a book for your little love based upon his or her interests. Does your son love astronauts? Get a book about the wonders of space written at a child’s level with lots of great pictures! Does your daughter dream of swimming with dolphins? Find books about the ocean or the beach. Go on excursions to stores like Half Price Books or spend a Saturday visiting yard sales and estate sales to hunt for new books to “adopt” and bring home with you.
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3. The spice of life: Cultures the world over have stories that touch on every theme of human life. From creation stories to “how it came to be” stories, from action and romance to dedication and valor, explore stories outside your realm. Explore fairy tales that aren’t already Disney movies (or even ones that are)! These stories are often simple and use lots of imagery as they come from oral traditions. They’ll hold your child’s interest and yours as well.
4. It doesn’t take much: Experts at The Reading Foundation tell us that just 20 minutes a day is all it takes to improve your child’s mind with books. Reading aloud is more than an oral rendition of a text; it is a shared experience. So no matter how many times you have read “Horton Hears a Who,” try to put love and interest into your voice. Even if you do experience some burnout with a particular book, remember that your child is learning as you read. The rhythm of words and the rhymes help with comprehension and understanding the association between words and the ideas they convey.
5. Set a good example: We all know that kids will not always do what you say, but they will usually do what you do. It’s therefore no surprise that the parents of good readers are active readers themselves. When our children see us read, they come to understand that reading is important, that they should take time to read for pleasure instead of just muddling through required reading. You might even offer to read aloud from your own selection, provided it is age-appropriate, of course!
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Reading is extremely important for our children’s development and can lead to incredible gains in vocabulary, in critical thinking, and in interest in the world around them. You can read to your kids even after they’ve begun reading on their own. Your voice will help cue them into pronunciation and adult-level conversational patterns. It will also help with their comprehension as they continue learning how to read. By demonstrating dedication to books from early on, you’ll set the stage for your student’s success with reading!