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Reading to your child- Tips for every age

For your children to grow up smart, it is a must for them to become bookworms early.  The benefits of reading to children cannot be overemphasized.  You, as a parent, can form your children’s reading habit by starting them early – from babies to preschool kids.  The loving environment created by reading to your young children will help them associate reading with your warmth, and this conditions their minds to feel that reading is a positive, pleasurable activity.

Here are age-appropriate how to’s and tips on reading to your children (baby, toddler, and preschooler), so they will get the most benefit out of their experience with you:

General Guidelines

  • Position yourself so both you and the children are comfortable. Make sure everyone can see the pictures. For example, sit side by side with one or two children. With a group, have the children sit in a semicircle and seat yourself slightly above them so that the children in the back can see the pictures.
  • Allow your listeners, especially younger children, a few minutes to settle down to get ready to hear the story.
  • Mood is an important factor in listening. Create anticipation.
  • Use plenty of expression and change your tone of voice to fit the dialogue.
  • Adjust your pace to fit the story. During a suspenseful part, slow down, draw your words out, and bring your listeners to the edge of their seats!
  • Be enthusiastic. Read stories that you enjoy yourself — your dislike will show if you read books that you don’t like.
  • Don’t just let your children look at the pictures in a book while you do all the reading. Call attention to the words. Read with them, not to them. Have in mind that you are trying to build their reading skills and strategies, and not showing them the book’s illustrations.

Before Reading

  • Introduce the author by saying something like: Remember how much we enjoyed ________ by this author? Do you remember what we liked about that story? Here’s another book by him/her. Let’s read this one and see if we like it as well as the other book we read.
  • Show the cover of the book. Ask children what they think the title might be and what the story will be about.
  • Discuss what they know about the topic.
  • Provide information about the setting, characters, and where the story takes place. With older children, talk about the genre (fiction, nonfiction, folk tale, myth, mystery, science fiction, fable).
  • Set a purpose for reading and signal that the reading will begin by saying something like: I’m going to begin reading and while I do, listen carefully to see if you can figure out what problem Stellaluna had and how it is was solved.

During Reading

    • Ask questions and make elaborations (add more information) during the read aloud. For example, questions and elaborations should help children:
      1. understand the meanings of unfamiliar words Sultry is a word we don’t hear often. It means warm and damp, no breeze.
      2. make predictions What do you think will happen next? What makes you think that?
      3. more deeply interpret the meaning of the book Do you think Stellaluna meant to be naughty by hanging by her feet?
      4. understand difficult concepts. What did the birds and bats learn from each other? How can people learn from each other?
    • Children will ask questions of you also. Answer their questions patiently; don’t ignore them or put them off.

“There is no time limit for reading a book but there is a time limit on a child’s inquisitiveness” (Trelease, 1993).

  • Discuss the illustrations and how they relate to the story.
  • Stop periodically and have children recap in their own words what has happened so far. Fill in the gaps of missing information or clarify misconceptions.

After Reading

  • Give children time to reflect on and think about the reading. Ask them to describe their favorite part and why it was their favorite.
  • Review the story components, such as the setting, main character’s problem, how the problem was resolved.
  • Ask questions to encourage children to think about why events may have happened the way they did; why people in the story behaved in a certain way; what the children would have done the same or differently and why.
  • Help children make connections between the events in the story and their own lives. For example, Have you ever felt out-of-place like Stellaluna did? How did you feel? What did you do?
  • Have children read the story to you (see next two pages).
  • Provide follow-up activities to extend the impact of the shared reading experiences.

How To Read To Your Baby

Find a list of 101 best children’s book of all time, by age.

  • When reading, cuddle with your baby.  Make her feel that reading is warm, relaxing and fun.
  • The best way to read books to your baby is to do this in a style that holds his interest, which stimulates his brain.  Read slowly, use a lilting singsong voice and exaggerated emphasis on important elements on the book, such as a key event (“Look at the cat climbing up the tree!”) or a character (“That’s a cat, it says “meow”.)
  • Do not feel awkward for acting silly while reading.  In fact, this is a must to hold your baby’s interest and engage his imagination.  Use different voices, body movements, and sound effects.
  • When choosing books to read to your baby, make sure that the texts are simple, and the sentences not too complicated.  Rhymes work best since at this stage, you are reading for ear appeal, rather than comprehension.  Rhymes are a type of sound that the young brain craves.  One word per page books are good too since these books help in starting to build your baby’s spoken vocabulary.
  • A great idea for a book-reading activity is to choose books that stimulate games like peek-a-boo, touch-and-feel, moving pop-up elements through tabs, and revealing surprises within hidden little flaps.  These books teach additional concepts like textures, object permanence, and cause and effect.
  • Encourage baby participation, like making her point to the objects on the book, or make her imitate the sound you make.  You can also suggest to your baby to turn the book by herself.
  • Choose books that have big, bright, realistic but simple pictures of familiar subjects such as animals, familiar house objects, toys, and people.
  • When giving books for your baby to play, choose those that are sturdy.  They are those that are laminated cardboard pages with round edges, or soft cloth books that can lie flat.
  • Make reading a regular activity, doing it a few minutes at least twice a day, when she’s quiet but alert, and already been fed.  This way it becomes a habit, and part of your baby’s routine.  Make sure that your baby is receptive to the reading activity, and she does not want to do something else like actively crawling or banging on pots.
  • Finally, let your baby see you read.  Your baby is more affected by seeing what you do than what you say.  This will give your baby an early impression that reading is an important part of life. When nursing or giving your baby a bottle, show your baby that you are reading, or you may even read a few pages out loud.

How To Read To Your Toddler

  • Let your child help you choose a book you would like to read together.
  • Find a comfortable place for you to read and sit together.
  • Do things that will make reading a book more entertaining to your child – and to you.  You can use different tones of voice for different situations, choose different voices for characters, and so on.  It is not just what you are reading that matters, but also how you read it.
  • You may tell the story in your own words if the words on the book is too complex for your child, and you don’t want him to lose interest.
  • Give your child time to make the most out of every page of the book.  Encourage him to look at the pictures, point out objects, repeat words, and talk about the story.
  • Ask questions like “Who did that?”, “What is she doing?”, “What is that called?”.   Also, to keep your child involved in the story, do not read straight through.  Ask questions like “Why do you think it happened?” and “What do you think will happen next?”
  • After reading a book, take time to ask your child question about what he liked or didn’t like about the story. Discussing pictures and ideas in the book helps your child understand.
  • To build your child’s vocabulary, ask him about where an object is in the book.  Praise him every time he points or names an object.
  • Choose books that tell a story with a lot of repetition and have the same words appearing over and over.
  • Spend a lot of time talking about illustrations on the book. Reading pictures is how children begin to read text
  • If you have more than one child, read to each child separately, especially if they’re more than 2 years apart.  Reading to children with different ages together is also a good practice.
  • Remember to take your child to the library regularly.

How To Read To Your Preschooler

  • See tips on reading to your toddler above, plus:
  • Let your child indulge in his interest when reading books.  Visit a book store or local library and let your child choose the book he likes.  Remember, you want to teach your child that reading is fun!
  • To further encourage reading, read aloud together with you pointing at the words.  If your kid makes a mistake, say the correct word and move on.
Article courtesy of Raise Smart Kid, 

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