Teaching Kids a Love of Reading: How and Why
One of my most favorite memories growing up was my mom always reading to me before bed. Books like Little House on the Prairie, The Boxcar Children, and Heidi were some of our favorites. Little did I know that my mom was planting very important seeds that would last a lifetime. To this day, for me, there is nothing better than settling down with a good book.
Now a mother of two boys, reading with them was a “tradition” I started almost the day they were born. I wanted my kids to have the same enjoyable experience my mom started for me and ultimately, I wanted them to have an appreciation for reading. Also, as a professional that works in pediatrics, I understood the importance of those seeds my mom planted.
Why are these “reading seeds” so important? The benefits are numerous. Let’s take a look at a few.
1. Develops Language and Literacy Skills. Research supports that reading to your child stimulates parts of the brain that allow a child to understand language, develop important literacy skills, and obtain an expanded vocabulary. Did you know this can start as early as infancy?
2. Increased attention span. When we introduce reading to our child early, with time, they are able to increase their focused attention necessary for reading. This improved attention for reading is particularly important as a child enters their school years when reading is a core subject.
3. Strengthens a child's imagination. Reading to a child stimulates parts of the brain that are responsible for forming mental images that encourage imagination. This allows a child to bring to life those stories, enhancing reading engagement and comprehension.
4. Improves visual memory. Visual memory is based on what is seen and is important in allowing a child to recognize, recall and remember pictures, letters or words; all of which are foundational for reading skills and comprehension.
What can you do, as a parent, to ensure these reading seeds have been planted in your child?
For our little ones newer to the reading game, accept quality over quantity. You may have a child that loves to climb into your lab and read page after page, book after book. Awesome! Keep on reading! I wish I could say that was the case for both of my kids. But it wasn’t. They were (and still are) busy boys, always on the move. If this feels more like your kids, cool! Honor their busyness. Follow their lead and focus on reading for however long they are willing – even if that means one page. At the earlier ages it is all about consistent exposure and building their attention for reading. A small stimulus goes a long way. Keep at it! It will pay off. For our older ones more experienced with reading that continue with their busyness (my kids!), alternate reading pages. Have them read a page and then you read a page. This has been a game changer for my family and has allowed reading to become more enjoyable for all of us.
To help strengthen a child’s imagination and reading comprehension, periodically take a few minutes to ask your child questions that will help bring the story to life. What did the fire breathing dragon look like? What was the princess wearing? What kind of animals were in the zoo? For our older ones more experienced with reading, ask them specific questions about the plot, characters, and setting to ensure reading comprehension.
To help build visual memory, point to the words you are reading to them. Have them follow along. As your child gets older, ask them to read any of the words they can identify.
Now it’s your turn! What are YOUR tips that have helped you when reading with your child? What is the favorite book of you and your child? Comment below to share the knowledge!