Children’s books. Do you have many? Books can be one of the best ‘investments’ in your child’s future. And you don’t have to spend a lot. Second-hand stores- hand me downs from friends, books as gifts for baby showers- all of these are great ways to build up your child’s library. Did you know that children who are introduced to books at a very early age will be exposed to language in a way that may have them talking earlier than children who are not read to? It’s true. Reading to children builds vocabulary, listening skills, memory skills, and increased concentration. Think about this- if you read just one book a day to your child – by the time they are five years old- that’s 1825 books! And as most people know- you usually can’t get away with reading just one book. Can you imagine how many words your child would hear? And many of those words would be unlike those we might use in our daily conversation- so that also makes a difference. Books that have stories with rhythm and rhyme, have a cadence that helps children to remember them, much like a song. And that memory helps to develop early literacy skills.
Children fall in love with books because of the memories created
when they snuggle up and read with someone they love.
The very act of reading to a child promotes bonding. When a child snuggles up beside you to look at the pictures in a book or sits on your lap and helps turn the pages- they are experiencing a connection, a bond that cannot be recreated by an online site or video game. Yes, we all get busy and occasionally you might need a book on CD, but nothing beats human connection. It is something that we are all missing these days. Sometimes when we read to a child, they will be looking at pictures and see things we as adults may miss. Slow down and look at the pictures- talk about the story, ask your child to tell you ‘what do you think is going to happen?’ They may surprise you by their answers! Plus asking the question in an open ended fashion- allows more opportunity for our little ones to use their newly expanded vocabulary!
We have all heard the saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’. And it’s true. Sometimes a book with great illustrations – might be boring. Books that are commercial- based on popular tv shows- will likely grab your child’s attention initially, because they recognize the characters- but these will seldom become a treasured bedtime story. This is because the content usually lacks any substance. Books that have colourful pictures, and a story or subject that sparks a child’s interest can quickly become favourites. And books don’t need to have a lot of words. Picture books with no text can encourage a child to ‘read’ the story through the pictures. They can draw their own conclusions and theories about the story themselves.
Many children will decide on one book as their favourite- which you will then read over- and over- and over- and this is okay. Eventually they will grow tired of it and move on. But in the meantime- they will have heard the words so many times that they may ‘read’ the book from memory. This act is a step in early literacy development and will lead to the day when those squiggly lines on the page become recognized as letters and words. It is all a process and you are helping it along when you read to your child.
Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.
Marilyn Jager Adams
One of the best pieces of advice we can give you- never read a book to a child that you haven’t read first. Even a three year old who loves books may lose interest if there is too much text- while a five year old may love the same book. And you don’t want to be surprised by subject matter that your child may not be able to handle. Hello!? Red Riding Hood’s grandmother eaten by a wolf? Hansel and Gretel being fattened by a witch to become dinner? Bambi’s father? Many earlier children’s stories and fables are actually quite violent when you think about it. While some children may be fine with these stories- others may not – and bedtime is NOT the time to discover the story you have chosen is not appropriate for your child! To parents who find bedtime hectic, a routine that includes cuddles and a good story can be the perfect bridge from a busy day to a restful sleep.
If you think that books may be too expensive – or simply a luxury- try making library visits part of your routine. Many libraries have story times. Children can also choose their own books- and may find topics that interest them that you wouldn’t have chosen. If you think your child is ‘too old’ to be read to- let them read to you! Reading out loud is great practice for them. And it will continue that bonding time that we know is so important. Children grow up way too fast!
George RR Martin, the author of Game of Thrones said ‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.’ If you think about it- this is true of children’s books as well. Books allow children to explore worlds they haven’t seen. They can have experiences they may not in their own life. Children can imagine themselves as the characters in the story. They can learn to cope with different scenarios that they themselves haven’t lived. The important thing to remember is that by introducing books early, you can help your child develop a lifelong love of reading.
There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.
If you were lucky enough to grow up in a home full of books- you likely have memories of a favourite from your childhood- the one that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling when you think of the story and pictures. If you didn’t grow up this way- why not make sure your child does?
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