Reading with Young Children
As children move into the second year of life, they begin to talk. Some can even use short sentences to describe what they want—”BOOK!” Up the interaction even more. Again, don’t worry about reading through the entire book quickly or limiting the child’s interruptions. The foremost goal is not to finish the book; it is to explore it together and have fun.
During this time, children may request the same story repeatedly. Toddlers are beginning to understand that there are patterns to language and becoming most comfortable with the patterns of their native tongue. Now introduce books with lots of rhyme, rhythm, and repetition of beginning sounds; try any title of Dr. Seuss, poetry, the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik, or interactive touchable books like Let’s Start Classic Songs: Wheels on the Bus by Todd South—a fun new pop-up book.
As your child’s attention span grows, you can choose longer books or longer reading sessions and sprinkle them throughout the day. Make sure a collection of the books you read is kept on the child’s level in his room or another commonly used room in the house. As he becomes more mobile and chooses activities, you want books to be a convenient choice. Parents are often concerned about children chewing on books or tearing them, so supervision is necessary—but gentle guidance and modeling of how to handle a book go a long way to minimize this.
A Fun Family Routine
Think you don’t have time to read with your kids? Don’t let a busy lifestyle keep you from sharing stories with your youngster. Kick off your shoes and retreat for five minutes into the world of reading when you first arrive home from work. On Saturday mornings, turn your bed into the family meeting place and enjoy a short book together before starting your day. Everyone has five minutes—that’s not even a long coffee break! Make sure caregivers who are with your child during the day practice the same approach.
With a steady diet of reading together daily and the positive approach outlined above, by the end of her second year, your toddler may able to communicate in complete sentences and will choose books as a favorite activity. If you have an extremely active child, don’t choose to read with her when she’s ready to play and jump. Choose “down times” when she’s tired (this is a good time to instigate bedtime stories) or when she’s quiet.
Point out letters and the sounds they make but don’t worry if your child isn’t able to recall those and identify them all for you. Simply making them a part of conversation and repeating them frequently (pointing out letters in the grocery store or in books you read together) is setting the foundation for when your child is developmentally ready for that next step.
Children moving into the preschool years will begin to ask “why” questions. Parents should greet these as an opportunity to explore books even more. You can begin to bring in simple informational books on their favorite topics like My Art Class by Nellie Sheppard or Big Machines by Karen Wallace (both from the publisher, DK, known for their realistic picture books). Books with more complex story lines, such as fairy tales, are also appropriate, but don’t lose the “explore and talk about” approach to reading together.
Whether your children are three months old or three years old, they will benefit immensely from a daily dose of reading with Mom and Dad. Not only will you be preparing them for the steps they will take as preschoolers to understand the alphabetic code of language, but you will insure they are ready for those important first academic experiences in school and have built a close relationship between the two of you in the process.
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