There is no doubt that reading to young children, even infants, has lifelong benefits. It helps children develop long-term reading and vocabulary skills, encourages use of their imaginations and creates a parent/child bond through education. It’s simple, inexpensive and powerfully valuable.
Check out these tips for reading with your children.
Create a Routine
Children thrive on routine and schedule, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun! Setting a reading time with your little one(s) is a great way to encourage the activity and form a long-lasting habit.
First of all, do what works best for you! Is reading together when they get home from school the best way to help them ease into their homework? Or, does cozying up in your jammies together before bedtime allow you the most time to get lost within a story?
Once you know what works best for you, try to stick to it. Our son expects a book every night and he eagerly runs toward his bookshelf to pick it out himself. Once you’ve started doing this on a regular basis, there’s no way your child will let you forget! Seeing that passion for reading is incredibly rewarding.
Seek out Reading Opportunities
Reading inside of the home is important, but there are opportunities for reading around your community as well. Libraries often offer age appropriate story times that allow reading to become a group activity. Having your children watch their peers become passionate about books is a powerful tool. It’s something that they share together, and they can even pick out books to take home together.
Another great reading opportunity is to seek out a Little Free Library. You will often find these scattered throughout your community at parks, people’s front yards or popular family-friendly areas. These adorable mini libraries allow children to leave books and pick out ones that have been left behind by other families.
Make Reading Fun!
Incorporate reading into your daily fun. If you’re on a long road trip, try playing the alphabet game in the car as a family. Often times the dollar spot at your local stores will have flashcards or reading games that are perfect for long trips in the car or even waiting in the preschool pick-up line. Keep a few of these games in your car for those spare moments.
Talk about Books
As you’re sitting around the dinner table make books part of the conversation. Simply ask your child about the book they are reading at home or what the class is reading in school. Allowing kids to verbalize their excitement over a story is a wonderful way to encourage the activity. You might even spark conversation that leads to the next book you read together at home.
Make Books Special
There are things in life that children get really excited about. Whether it’s the character they’re dressing up as for Halloween, the Birthday party theme they’re wishing for or the latest toy their hoping to add to their collection. An easy way to showcase the power of stories is to allow and even suggest book themes in these big events.
Does your daughter love The Velveteen Rabbit? Maybe add one to her collection of stuffed animals. Is your son a huge fan of Harry Potter? He’d make a great Harry for Halloween! Does your little one adore Pet the Cat? Throw a Pet the Cat themed Birthday party!
Also, when we had our son’s baby shower, we asked people to bring a small book in lieu of cards. Each of our loved ones signed the inner most page of the book with a meaningful message. Now when we pick up a book to read at night, he knows who it’s from and we read that front message too. These little, special touches can make a real difference.
Create a Reading Spot
This can really be dressed up or dressed down to whatever works best for you. One of my favorite things I’ve seen is keeping a basket in the family room with books. You can switch out the books to the best seasonal reads (so it acts as a bit of a decoration as well).
Place a little rocking chair or seat next to the basket to invite your child to read whenever they get a chance. A small bookshelf in a child’s room or a teepee with a bucket of books in the playroom are other fantastic ideas. Whatever place you choose, it’s special because it’s a safe space dedicated to their reading.
The truth is, no matter what their age, children benefit from reading books. It’s amazing watching them grow through the gift of reading. We’ve enjoyed reading the same book to our son on his Birthday each year as a tradition. He always remembers it as his “birthday” book throughout the year. We also have favorite fall and Christmas-themed books that we love pulling out each season.
As you read books together, you create a unique bond over the love of stories. This connection can truly last a lifetime as someday you see The Nutcracker on stage with your adult daughter or when you help buy your son a Little Blue Truck when he turns 16. You’ll cherish this time, and the truth is…they will too.