Reading brings a host of benefits to your children during the early years, as it helps to build the neural connections in their brain and sets the pace for cognitive development. Many parents start off this journey by reading to and with their children, which is highly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
“Reading to children and with children is a very joyous event and a way of fostering a relationship, as well as [helping] language development. And we don’t have to wait until we’re getting them ready for school. We can make it part of regular routine,” says Pamela High, the lead author of the AAP policy statement.
Apart from this, there are many things you can do to build the love of reading in your child – some of which also double up as a fun bonding activity. Here are some of our suggested tips:
1. Visit the library regularly
Your child’s fascination with books and stories usually builds up from age two onwards, and this gives you a great chance to keep his/her reading adventure fun by taking him/her to the library. There are shelves of books to discover and explore, and you can both go on a book hunt after making a list of recommended book titles to check out at the library. There are also story-telling sessions held at our local libraries which your child can join in as the storytellers bring the tales to life.
2. Continue reading to your child, even when he/she can read solo
Your child enjoyed being read to when he/she was a teeny tot, and chances are, he/she will still love this even when independent reading is achieved. So, don’t stop reading to your child and keep this reading routine going for as long as he/she will let you. Not only will this help to retain your child’s interest in reading as he/she moves along, it also gives you the opportunity to talk to your child about values and life choices through a good story.
3. Take your child to the next reading level
At this age, your child’s attention span may not last that long, which explains why some children lose interest in reading once they can read by themselves. To keep them interested, you can take their reading level up a notch by picking books that are slightly harder than the ones they are used to.
For example, if your child seems comfortable with picture books, do add on books with slightly more words and an exciting storyline to the collection. Read together with your child in the beginning and introduce new words and concepts to him/her. As you both move along, gradually work on having him/her read and enjoy the book alone – for example, by leaving your child with the book halfway through the story.
4. Model reading and discuss books with your child
Children learn by observing what their parents do, so take the lead and settle down with a book during your children’s reading time at home. You can make things more interesting by reading “grown-up books” aloud to them such as a relevant piece from Time, then discuss the reading material with the whole family. If there is a movie version or theatre production of a book that your children enjoy reading, make plans to catch the movie together. After that, talk to them about the movie/theatre show and ask them what was done differently in the show compared to the original from the book.
5. Draw a line to screen time
In this digital age, spending time with the TV and computer/tablet trumps quiet time with a good book. Before your children develop an addiction to these gadgets, it would be worthwhile to set some rules with regards to screen time and encourage them to find joy in reading. Once their reading is more established, you can make tweaks to the rules by allowing them to explore reading apps. Some good reading apps that are worth checking out include MeeGenius, Tales2Go and the MindChamps Read-Along app which is used during the MindChamps Reading & Writing (MRW) programme – offered both as a standalone enrichment programme and as part of the MindChamps PreSchool curriculum.
See also: Play is Important in More Ways than One
6. Entice your child with comics and art & craft
For children who are struggling to enjoy reading time, you can pique their interest by turning to two of their much-loved interests: comics and art & craft. Some children see comics as less intimidating compared to regular books, while others are attracted by the rich illustrations. You can start to build their interest with comics first, with choices such as Calvin and Hobbes and Geronimo Stilton (the graphic novel series) that are great for vocabulary-building and instilling positive values.
This article was first published on the MindChamps blog.