Reading is the most important habit to instill in children. It increases their vocabulary, which directly increases their performance at school. Reading will expand their knowledge in every other area, and open their minds to so many possibilities.
Because children often are learning the actual phonetic combinations at school, and exploring reading more on a practical side, the love of reading is best fostered at home, and supported by you, the parent.
When children are little, take the time to read to them every night, and delight in the stories you discover together. To make that time even more special, here are 10 tips you can use:
1. Take the time to look at the images together.
Instead of just reading the book, look at the images with your child and see what they tell you. This will teach your child to look for cues in the images that tell him what is about to happen in the book. Using this strategy will help the child increase his vocabulary by enabling him to "guess" what a new word means, just by understanding its context.
2. Use different voices for different characters in a book.
By making a special voice for the ogre of the story, then for the little girl he meets, and all the other characters, you help your child imagine the story, bringing it to life. Once your child begins to read, even when she is not reading aloud, she will in turn adopt the habit of giving book characters their own voice, their own life, which will greatly increase her reading comprehension skills and work with her imagination.
3. Follow with your finger.
If your child is just learning to read or is an inexperienced reader, it helps when you follow with your finger as you tell the story. This will show him that, in the English language, we read from left to right. It will also help your child discover that every word you are reading is there, on the book, and once your child is beginning to read, he will start visually recognizing whole words. This is like watching a movie with subtitles. You don't need to read the subtitles if you understand the language, but you tend to want to read them anyway.
4. After reading to your child, read with your child.
When your children are beginning to read alone, still be sure to make this a great bonding experience, by spending time with them while they read. Many parents put a lot of effort in teaching their children to read, and reading to them every night until they learn to do it alone, but then stop once the child can read. Remember, even though the child can now read, she will miss that time with you and will not feel the same encouragement. Your job is now to show her how great it is to read. Read her stories still, from time to time, even if she can read them herself, and other times just sit by her and read your own book while she reads hers. This will not only show her that you like reading, it will give the two of you time to bond and allow her to share the reading experience with you.
5. Go out with your child to buy a special book.
Make it a time you spend together, just the two of you. Take your child to the bookstore and tell him you would like to buy him a book, one that he will choose. Bookstores have a special feeling to them. They are wonderful places to spend a little time just browsing. Your child will later associate the happy experience when he reads his book at home. If you like, instead of visiting a bookstore, you can spend time together at the library, and borrow a book instead.
6. Refer back to the stories you read together.
Casually in your conversations, refer back to the stories you read together. Make comments like, "It's like that rabbit that we read about in that story who couldn't get out of his home. Remember?" This will help make her reading experience more valuable, and teach her to enrich her personal life with the things she learned about, or experienced through the book.
7. Write a special message.
When giving your child a book as a gift, write a special message on the inside, sharing with him how much you look forward to sharing this book with him, or how proud you are that he is reading so much. This will strengthen the bond between the two of you, and make the habit of reading even more enjoyable for him.
8. Read in front of your child.
Children learn by example. If you enjoy reading, they will learn to enjoy reading just by watching you. Take the time to cozy up at home with a book you really enjoy, or even the newspaper. Children will see reading as a part of home life, and often will start to do the same.
9. Share with them what you learned from reading.
During dinner, or at anytime throughout the day, share the things you read about in your books. Offer insights such as, "This book really made be think about the importance of appreciating what you have," or "I loved reading the part where the woman was faced with a life-changing decision, it reminded me of a time when I was young." When sharing preface your comment by saying, "I read today," so your children see other positive examples of how reading enriches your life. Likewise, tell your family about what you read in the newspaper, or what you learned from a magazine or blog.
10. Read your children's books.
Imagine a day when your 10-year-old son finishes reading a 400-page novel, passes it to you and says, "you should read this mom, I'm sure you'll love it. It has a really emotional part in it." This can happen. When you spend years reading together and talking about books with your child, you will develop a bond and common interest. Your children will begin to know what books appeal to you and vice versa. Reading creates confidence in children and sets the foundation for them to read more complex stories as they mature.
Literacy is one of the most important skills you can teach your child. Take the time to foster this skill at home in a way that is fun and appealing and your child will learn to take pleasure in books, rather than viewing reading as a chore.
Natacha V. Beim is a parenting expert, teacher, international speaker, published writer, and the founder or the successful Core Education & Fine Arts Junior Kindergarten schools. You can reach her at natachabeim.com.
Also see: How to Raise a Confident Reader
Get Your Teens Interested in Reading
Literacy Resources in the New York Metro Area