Reading is a way of life, a part of our daily rhythms. Here are 5 tips for reading aloud with your children.
Reading is a huge part of our family life. We have been reading aloud to Samuel since he was in my womb! I am a book lover by nature, and through marriage, my husband has adapted the incredible thirst for reading as well. (Proof that it works to merely lead by example! My mother-in-love didn’t think she’d ever see the day her baby boy actually enjoyed reading.)
Because we love the written word, we believe it is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our son – a chance to love reading and learning.
Reading is a part of our daily life and rhythm.
Our library trips always yield stacks and stacks of good literature to read together!
I remember when we lived in a little two bedroom condo on the second floor. Sam wasn’t more than five or six months old. I would load him in his stroller, and we’d walk the half mile to the library. We’d check out twenty or so books at a time. I think I was the favorite of all the librarians. We even did the summer reading program, and after the first week, Samuel had a puppet to call his very own.
No, I’m not an over-achieving mother. Okay, maybe I am, but not because I try to be. At least not when it comes to reading. I like to call it intentional, to be honest. But in truth, I enjoy reading that much – so much that I will check out books for a child who can’t even sit up yet!
And now? Samuel loves reading too! I’m so impressed with his ability to sit for hundreds of pages of Curious George at a time. No squirming, no worming, and no tears. He crawls in our lap with a 1958 version of Curious George Flies a Kite and says, “Read George pweety pwease.”
Did you know that only 60% of parents with children under five years old read to their children everyday? (Source)
This breaks my heart. Reading teaches language. Language has a lot to do with a child’s emotional development. We can worry about socializing our children all day long, but if we fail to give them the tools to communicate, we are doing more harm than good.
Therefore, I am passionate about equipping parents with the resources needed to bring reading alive for their children.
So what can you do? Well, I have some tips!
5 Tips for Reading Aloud with Your Child
1. Set realistic expectations.
If you’re just getting started, then start with purposing to read one book a day. It can be a simple First Words book where all you do is point to a picture and say, “Cat.” Start somewhere! Then, work your way up.
Additionally, keep your expectations high for what your child is capable of. I can guarantee you your children will rise to your expectations. We’re not reading Curious George before we’re two years old because my son picked out Curious George for himself! I pulled it out one day and gave it a try. He loved it!
2. Read during meals.
We do our morning family devotions at the breakfast table, crumbs and all. Our son’s hands and mouth are fully occupied; not to mention, he’s strapped into his high chair. He’s not talking or turning cart wheels.
We’ve found this a great opportunity for a few minutes of reading together. You can do this with all different kinds of reading materials at all three meals of the day (or whatever meals you are together).
We have a stack of books just for lunch time, and more often than not, he’s asking to read them after dinner too. I keep them in a basket on our table.
3. Read before going to bed.
We read books before nap time and bed time. This helps settle our son before crawling into bed.
I don’t know about your children, but before bed, we’re chasing dogs, tackling Daddy, and spilling our milk everywhere. We are wound up tight! So reading helps us to calm down and ease into a restful state.
4. Frequent the library.
We are weekly regulars at our local library. Frequenting the library puts your child around books and other children reading books.
We also do story time. This was not easy at first. My son wanted to run around the room, but with time, he has learned to sit on his bottom (we skip the cushion because it’s distracting for him) and listen to the librarian read a couple of stories.
We rarely read together at the library. There is just too much to see and do (like play with the giant giraffe puppet!). But he’s becoming familiar with choosing books and checking them out to go home. When we get home, he digs in the bag for books to read.
5. Make books available.
This seems so obvious, but I think it’s important to note: make books readily available to your children!
When Samuel was born, we’d open books in his crib for him to look at. He would stare at the pictures, and we’d flip through the book as he grew bored (we could tell because he’d start looking around at other things). As he grew, we’d place board books on his play mat and in his toy baskets.
Sometimes he throws books in excitement, chews them when he’s teething, and stands on them. To me, I’m insulted if a book doesn’t get chewed (not a library book, of course… and not by my dog). Therefore, we never reprimand him when he’s enjoying a book, even if it’s not for the intended purpose. Books are safe zones, and they are meant to be enjoyed! We can teach caring for our belongings with time, but board books were made to endure children.
We want him to be free to explore his books, and it’s my job to keep paper books away from him when I’m not around if he’s in a book tearing phase (we seemed to have skipped this phase…). As he grows, we rotate books in our baskets around the house. We have loads of books available in our playroom, bathrooms, bedrooms, and car!
So make books available not just in number but in the freedom to use and explore.
A bonus tip: Pictures are incredibly important in books because that is what your toddlers are reading. They don’t read words so choose books with pictures worth looking at!
If you want your children to love reading, then it starts with you mom (and dad). You don’t have to love books more than shoes like I do. You don’t have to be the most animated reader like your local librarian. The point is that you try to grow at reading aloud with your children, and try hard. Because it’s worth it.
What tips for reading aloud with your children would you add to the list?
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