Research shows that children who read at grade level do better in school, are less likely to drop out of high school and are more successful as adults than children who lag behind at reading. But how and when should children start to read? Won’t they learn to read when they begin to go to school?
Actually, parents can begin reading to their children when they are babies. When very young children are read to, something significant happens. Children learn more language skills, vocabulary, cognitive skills and a lifelong interest in stories and reading. Even if parents are not able to read themselves or are learning English as their second language, they can look at picture books with their children. Noticing and being able to say what is happening in a picture can also develop skills. In addition, parents can sing, play games and talk with their children to boost vocabulary and language.
Early literacy skills require time and practice, but it’s not hard! It’s as simple as sitting down with your child one or two times a day and reading books aloud, looking at pictures and telling stories. You can make reading a part of another daily routine, like nap time or bedtime. And it’s a great time to cuddle and feel close with your child.
The following video and tips are adapted from Sunny Side of the Street, a program designed for parents and preschool children.
Pointers for reading and sharing books:
Take Turns: Take turns picking out books or reading every other page. Taking turns is a good way to give children the opportunity to speak and express their ideas. This helps their brains develop.
Label: Have you noticed that children like to name the things they see in books or in the world around them? That’s an important part of their language development. Encourage this by listening to them and pointing out things you see.
Say More: A wonderful way to encourage children’s thinking skills is by adding something to the things they say. For example, if you’re looking at a picture together and your child notices a kitten, you could say, “Yes, that’s a furry kitten.”
Repeat: Repeating children’s words lets them know that you are listening and interested in their ideas.
Listen: Listening to children gives them a chance to use words and share ideas, and makes them feel secure, safe and loved.
Watch the Sunny Side of the Street kids as they learn to read at home and in school: