This article appeared in The Leduc Representative and The Beaumont News in September 2017.
Reading begins at home. Excitement! Enthusiasm! Fun! These all come from the pages of books. Enjoy stories with your child from a very early age. Even newborns can sense your enthusiasm when you read to them. Pick a special time each day for this special task—reading to your child. Learn to be flexible. Read as long as he or she is interested. Don’t force reading. It will work its own magic in time.
- As you read, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask: “Isn’t that a funny thing to say? Would you have said that?”, “What do you think will happen next?”, or “Do you know what a streetcar is?”
- Answer questions even if they don’t get asked. If you think something is unclear or difficult, stop and clarify it. Don’t worry about breaking the flow of the story—your kids won’t mind.
- Link stories to everyday life, and use what your child knows about the world to make sense of stories.
- Have your children make up stories. Be involved by asking, “What happened after?” Make comments such as, “Wow! That was scary!” It will encourage the child to keep going. Be enthusiastic and responsive. Give your child your full attention.
- To focus attention on the story, ask a lot of what if questions. For example, “What if the bird from the story landed on your nose?” and “What if the princess asked you for something to eat?”
- Answer your child’s endless why questions. When you say, “I don’t know why the sky is blue; let’s look it up” you show how important books are.
- Make books important in your life. Teach by example. Read and talk about books, have literature around the house, on coffee tables, etc. Take trips to the library, park, museum, or zoo; surround these events with comments and questions that can be answered using books.
- Pick books with repeated phrases such as Three Little Pigs. Change your vocal inflection when reading repeated phrases such as, “not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin.” Soon your child will join in and you will be huffing and puffing together. Repeating phrases makes the story fun, and helps bring the story to life. As your child grows more familiar with a story, pause whenever there are repeated phrases and let your child fill in the blanks.
- Pretend! Pretend! Pretend! Encourage your child to pretend to read, especially the books that contain repetition and rhyme. Ask questions about the story. Be interested. Be excited. “Dad, Nikki is reading!”
These tips will ensure that not only will your kids have the best chance to develop a love of reading, but that you will have a more engaged and healthy relationship with your children.