For the longest time, my greatest fear was losing my eyesight because then I wouldn’t be able to read. Now they have audiobooks, so I no longer fear that. Not many people share this fear and I am shocked when I hear that there are people in the world who do not read books at all.
I cannot imagine a life without reading, and when I became a stepmom to a phenomenal 6-year old, I passed on my love of reading to him with a little creativity and persistence. By the time he was 11 years old, he often chose books over iPad time.
The love of reading starts before a child even understands what reading is.
I did not grow up in a house of books, or with parents who read to me, but my literary attachment began with record stories. Remember those? One of my favorites was The Hobbit. Even when I was young, I had a kid’s record player. I could put on the record by myself and read along with the book. The “ding” told me when to turn the pages. That led to the library becoming my second home in childhood to reading 107 books in a year as an adult.
Reading correlates with learning, so get your kids started early.
Following along to a book, either through electronic means or parents reading to young ones, builds preliteracy skills. Preliteracy skills are those that familiarize a child with aspects of print, the components of a book, the connections between printed and spoken words as well as how illustrations correspond to the story.
Other preliteracy skills include telling stories, which kids love to do whether it’s telling something that really happened or making something up. Much of kids’ play involves making, creating, and enacting stories.
Ways to build preliteracy skills
Engage young children with books. Have books around, read to your child, ask them to “read” to you. Point out letters, words that match the pictures, and invite your child to create alternate storylines. Ask them questions about the story to spark their imagination such as, “What would happen if the story happened to someone else?”
Comics can be a great way to engage young kids in reading. The words and pictures are in the same block, that way the child learns to associate those words with the action. While most comics are written for older kids and adults, there are multiple artists creating engaging content for young kids.
- Owly by Andy Runton
- Toon Books has graded reading levels starting at preliteracy level
- Tiny Titans series brings the DC Universe to young ones
- Disney stories with Mickey, Donald, and the gang
Take your child to the library as soon as they can walk and make it a regular outing. Invite them to explore the kids' books while they are there, check out books to bring home, and participate in library group reading activities.
When you’re out and about, help kids look for things to read. Talk to your kids about what they think signs say, even if they can’t read them, or while shopping, ask them what they think a product is.
Most importantly, read yourself. If you want them to be lifelong readers, show them that even grownups read books. Read on your own, and especially read to them.
The best thing you can do is model the behavior you want your kids to emulate.
When you read to your child, engage in dialogic reading. This is an interactive style of reading that involves you and your child. Ask them questions about words, what happened in the story, what they think will happen next, what just happened, and how they would act if they were the main character. Invite your child to “read” their favorite books to you, including pointing things out, turning pages, and telling the story. It doesn’t matter if they get it right, what matters is the two-way engagement between you and your child over reading.
Use real books, not digital books. Young kids develop better preliteracy skills when they handle real books. While digital books can offer interactive and fun features, use them sparingly.
My love of reading came naturally, and some children will experience the same, but others need support and encouragement. Every child will learn to read at a natural pace. However, if your child shows signs of reading or literacy difficulties, get them tested for reading challenges right away. The sooner those difficulties are identified, the less of a negative impact they will have on your child’s experience. There are phenomenal reading teachers who can help children overcome reading challenges, so don’t let the threat of disability get in the way.
Children who develop a positive relationship with reading are those who are exposed to books and reading during the preliteracy stages. Invest the time in your child’s reading skills early and they will blossom with academic success.