Family Literacy Day in Canada was this past week so I wanted to celebrate by sharing some tips for raising a reader. As a self-proclaimed bookworm, it was very natural for me to share my love of reading with my daughter Leah. Here are some tips for raising your own avid reader!
1) Start early - You can start exposing your child to books before they can actually hold them or read them. The pictures are great visual stimuli and reading books aloud gives your infant the chance to hear your voice, learn words and familiarize him/herself with sounds. When Leah was a newborn, I placed books by her change table so she could look at the pictures while she was getting her diaper changed. Early on before Leah could even hold her head up on her own, Clayton and I started the tradition of family storytime before bed, with one of us holding the book and the other, the baby. When her fine motor skills improved, we gave her lift-the-flap books (which she loved!) and board books with interesting textures (check out her page turning video here).
Before long, Leah became a pro page turner, often turning the page before we could finish reading them. When playing, she would pick up books on her own to “read”. Now one of her favourite things to do is sit in our lap while we read a book with her.
2) Build a library – Take the time to build up your child’s personal library. Funny enough, Clayton once made the mistake of saying “I think we have enough books…” and I quickly set him straight. My rule is, you can NEVER have enough books! You don’t have to spend a lot of money to build up your library. Check out sites like Kijiji and Craigslist to purchase hand me down books (I scored an amazing box of Dr. Seuss and Bernstein Bears books for just $20, in perfect condition!). The clearance section of Winners (and popular bookstores too) often have great finds for just a few dollars. These clearance books might not be in pristine condition, but I figure since Leah will probably destroy them anyway, it doesn’t really matter! Warehouse sales are excellent too such as the Samko Miko Toy Warehouse (brand new books for just a few bucks, great book sets for amazing prices). Lending books from the library or book swapping with other moms is another low cost option that will help your personal library stay fresh. Need more ideas? Click here for a list of Top 100 Children’s Books from Today’s Parent.
In terms of the type of books you should invest in, here are some of my suggestions. In the first three months, you can read any book to your child but I suggest something not too long (short attention span at this age) with vibrant colours or black and white patterns. From three to six months, I suggest ABC board books and fabric books like Happy Duck that your baby can safely play with and even chew on. Finger puppet books are great fun too! When the fine-motor skills start to develop, add on lift-the-flap book and textured books that your child can interact with. Include some story-telling board books and even some vocabulary or word books to start teaching your child the names of objects. I find that Leah always loved small (miniature sized) books because she could handle them so much more easily. Plus, they’re the perfect size to bring along in the diaper bag for outings.
3) Involve the whole family… and friends too!
At first it took some encouragement to get Clayton to read with Leah, but once he experienced her plopping her down in his lap with a book in hand, he was hooked. Reading with your child is such a meaningful bonding experience and one that will stay with your child forever. Encourage friends and family visitors to spend some time reading to your child so the message is reinforced in your home.
4) Enrich the reading experience – When you’re reading to your child don’t feel you have to stick to the script. Take the time to point out interesting illustrations or to ask your child questions about the story. I would ask Leah “where is the flower?” or “where is the fish?” to teach her what these words meant. In fact, wording questions in the right way you can improve your child’s thinking skills. Participate in reading programs at your local library or Early Years Center so your child can experience fun games and activities that involve reading and literacy.
Whatever you do, have fun and enjoy the process… learning is contagious!