Learning to enjoy reading at an early age gives your child a jumpstart on her education, but schoolwork should not be the only reason to raise an eager reader. Enjoyment of reading is an important puzzle piece to a fulfilled life. Here are some fun strategies to get your children interested in the written word:
- Set aside time for reading every day. If your child is reading picture books, you can likely fit in a minimum of three and as many as nine easy ones per day (spread out through waking, nap and bedtimes). Connect the illustrations to the words in the book by running your finger under each word as you pronounce it. Exaggerate your expression and intonation and use your hands to give emphasis to the story. These actions will engage your child.
- Encourage your child to make up stories about the illustrations on the pages. Ask questions about characters, settings and plot. What does your child think will happen next? And next? These prompts will get your child to think ahead as well as think through feasible plot twists.
- Research shows that children who are most prepared for school are read to at least three times a week; even older children who can read to themselves benefit when a parent or other loved one reads to them. (Note: Don't overlook your preteens and teens. Think Harry Potter, and share family reading time with them as well.)
- Check your local library's calendar for story times and attend as frequently as possible. Being in a room with other children your child's age will increase his enjoyment of books. Also check the calendar for older children's activities at the library. Often, there are events for older elementary, tweens and teens.
- As you travel through your day look for "environmental" print wherever you go: the "Stop" in the stop sign, the "Exit" sign in the restaurant and the name of your child's favorite bookstore are part of so-called "environmental" reading. Words are everywhere. Ask your child to find three new ones each day so you can discuss their meaning and usage.
- Ask your children's teachers to give you a list of books they will be reading this year. Preview the books with your children at the library or a local bookstore so they will be familiar with them once the reading assignments begin.
- Get your child a library card. At the library, allow your children to borrow as many books as you can carry (bring along a cloth bag or container for this purpose); if they all don't get read before they need to be returned, don't sweat it. You can renew the books if your child still wants to read them (ask your librarian about the process). In addition, don't feel you must read or finish reading all the books you borrow if they turn out not to hold your child's interest.
- Start a library for your child at home. Keep your child's books accessible at eye level so he can look through them whenever he pleases. Teach your child to close books when done and how to put them back on the bookshelf.
- Tips from the trenches: Cooking together is a fun way to incorporate reading and bonding with your child. Have your child follow along with the written recipe. Point to an ingredient on the list and have your child match it with the actual ingredient or utensil. After dinner, read about food or cooking together.