What’s to love about literature? As the seasons change I find my family and I spending more time indoors. I like to create the perfect cozy corner in my home to get lost in a stellar book and sip a good cup of chai tea. How do I balance working from home, raising a four year old and find the time to read a book at leisure?
The answer comes in my first step to developing your child’s love for reading and all things literacy, followed by many more ideas to lead your child to a life-long love for literature.
Ten Important Steps to Raising an Emergent Reader
- Create a reading book nook: Children love a cozy place to sit when playing and reading. So create an inviting book nook or corner with book shelves, bean bags and pillows. Shelves are an important component of the child’s environment and need to be accessible to your child’s height. Book shelves do not have to be expensive; they can be as simple as boards and bricks or rain gutters! Show the importance of books by displaying books around the entire home in baskets. It is a good idea to rotate books once a month. Display books as you would see in a bookstore and allow books to be seen by their cover and not their spine.
- Provide a print-rich environment: Surround your children with a literature rich environment filled with books, newspapers, comic books, birthday cards, post cards, magazines (subscribe to a child-friendly one like National Wildlife Federation, National Geographic Kids, Highlights, Time for Kids). Giving children access to print materials is associated with positive behavioral, educational, and psychological outcomes.
- Schedule a reading hour: – Read simutaneouesly as a family has worked wonders for our family. So while you dive into your latest novel, set the timer for an hour and let your child engage in as many books and reading materials as they want. Let them know it’s quiet reading hour (start with shorter time periods in the beginning). The benefits of your child witnessing you reading, makes you an invaluable role model. There is no greater gift you can give your children than to help them discover a life-long love for literature.
- Reading wish list: Make reading a fun adventure! Make frequent trips to your local library and bookstore. Explain the difference between buying and borrowing books. Studies reveal that kids develop a positive attitude towards reading and learning when they get to borrow or own their own books. My daughter has a wish list and I make sure to make a note of the books she likes at the bookstore. Then we look for that same book in the library and check it out for free! When you visit the library, make sure to pick-up your library’s recommended reading lists and an updated list of Newberry Award and Caldecott Award books. This is a great way to get inspired and start adding to your reading wish list.
- Encourage reading aloud: Reading aloud to your child helps them learn the rhythm and pace of written and spoken language. A fun exercise when reading to your child is to break up the sentences that your child can immediately repeat. This gives your child a chance to memorize a favorite book in small bits. Then when your child is ready, he or she will be reading aloud to you!
- Read bedtime stories together: During bedtime, read stories aloud that are slightly above your child’s reading level. Allow your child to pick out at least one book per night at bedtime (we let our daughter pick out three stories). Alternate between mom, dad, grandparents, aunties, uncles. Let your child see that all of the adults she cares about enjoy reading to her too. What makes my heart melt is when both my husband and I squeeze into our daughter’s bed to read stories together as a whole family. Both parent and child can learn to enjoy the quiet intimacy that comes with taking time to stop during our busy days to unhurriedly share a story.
- Introduce different reading mediums: Think of all the ways you personally consume literature. Audio books are one of the mediums that adds another dimension to reading. One of my favorite audio books for children, The Very Hungry Caterpillar: board book & CD read by Eric Carle himself. It’s such a delight! My daughter listens in anticipation for the tone to signal that it’s time to turn the page. There are also free audio stories for kids from StoryNory. You can also allow your child to experience a story on a smartphone or open a Word Doc and let them type away on your computer. I promise your child will love to play on your toys. And they get the added benefit of enhancing their understanding of literacy.
- Answer your child’s questions through research: When your child asks you a question have them help you find the answer in a book or on-line. If your child likes the question, “Why?” Explore and satisfy their curiosity by teaching your child how to find the answers. You can say, “That’s a good question, let’s look in this book.” If you don’t have a book with the answer, you can look for the answer on the internet, or better yet, add books on that subject of inquiry to your library wish list.
- Engage in literacy learning activities: Time spent engaged in literacy activities with your child has emotional benefits as well. Play a board game and read the instructions; explore the alphabet and the sounds the letters make; cut and paste pictures onto pages and have your child dictate the story; rhyme words and make-up silly songs; when reading a familiar book, let your child say the last word in the sentence.
- Provide writing tools: Literacy includes supporting early writing by making sure that your child has access to paper, crayons, pencils, pens and markers. Introduce each writing tool gradually, so that your child has a clear understanding of how to use and care for their writing materials. I like to keep a spiral notebook and pen in my car for long trips – it provides hours of entertainment. A fun one to introduce to your child is an Easel or even a small dry erase board. Let them write, erase and re-write!