By Hearing First Team March 22, 2016
Reading to your child is crucial for early brain development and literacy. However, it can be a struggle to get your child interested in being read to. Here are some tips on how you can have successful reading sessions with your little one.
The road to literacy begins at birth — and reading aloud daily is one of the most important ways you can facilitate the brain’s readiness for reading.
Every parent has experienced it — the push/pull of reading to small children. Sometimes they want the ninth story in a row and you’re just too tired to relent and read on. Just as often it’s the other way around. You sit down to bond with your little one over a good book and they pop up to run around every other line.
Why start now?
It’s tempting to figure, “Why fight it? We’ll read more when they can sit still,” but it’s important for parents and caregivers to commit to reading aloud as a daily habit from the very beginning.
The road to literacy begins at birth — and reading aloud daily is one of the most important ways you can facilitate the brain’s readiness for reading. Reading aloud to a child from birth has many great benefits — like building connections in the brain, facilitating language development and creating positive associations of reading for the child. (link to previous blog post).
Just because it’s important, doesn’t mean it’s always easy…
Families can value reading together and still struggle to get their child interested in being read to. Parents can have a deep commitment to reading and still run into challenges holding their child’s attention for very long.
This is especially true of children who are becoming more mobile, children who are very active and those who have not been read to since (or before) birth. If a child struggles to stay still for even short periods, the ‘battle’ to get them to sit for a story might seem overwhelming. And adults don’t always have age-appropriate expectations for what their burgeoning book lover can reasonably enjoy.
Ideas to try at reading time
These ideas are designed to make reading time more enjoyable for small kids and caregivers alike. Try these today with your “reluctant reader.”
- Establish a routine. Children thrive with rhythm and routine, and building books into the pattern of their days is a great way to start a successful habit.
- Reading at bedtime is often a good idea since it is likely that your child is not as active as they prepare to sleep. Make the room quiet, dim the lights, and get comfortable as you curl up together over a bedtime story.
- Snack time and meals are also great times for read aloud sessions. While your child is enjoying his/her favorite foods and seated at the table or in a high chair, read a book, or two, or three….
- Make it a family affair! If there are older children in the house, get them involved. While your busy/active child is in his/her car seat, ask an older child to read aloud along the way.
- Set the example. Modeling is a powerful teacher. Let your child see you reading. This allows literacy to become one of the many things your little one will want to mimic as they grow.
- Give yourself permission to skip parts. Remember — a ‘win’ doesn’t require reading every word. If there’s too much text to hold your child’s attention, feel free to paraphrase. It’s more important to end the read aloud on a successful note, even if that means telling the story in your own words.
- Build story stamina! No need to challenge yourself with the Moby Dick of board books out of the gate. Start in short increments and build the length of time that your child will attend. Start with a one minute story if that’s how long your little one will tune in. Next time, expand to two minutes (and so on).
- Employ silliness to get back on track. If your child becomes fussy, try to do something unexpected such as singing, sound effects or a different voice to re-establish interest and then wrap things up quickly.
- End on a high note. Finish your reading session by letting your child know how much fun it was to share a story with them.
- Don’t give up! Keep in mind, it may take some time and practice. A good phrase to remember is, “practice makes better” (not perfect).
A Read-Aloud Resource for Families
Reading aloud to an infant is a very different task than reading aloud to a crawler, a walker or a constant question asker — and parents need strategies to success at each age and stage of a child’s development.
What is reasonable to expect? How do you know if your child is engaged? Jim Trelease’s book, The Read Aloud Handbook, discusses the developmental stages of reading aloud — so that families and caregivers know what to anticipate and what to emphasize during daily reading sessions.
Megan Murray Katz and Kathryn Wilson have adapted this information to create Read Aloud – Stages, Strategies and more for Children Birth - Three to capture some of the principles and practices outlined in the 6th edition of his book.
- the characteristics of children at various stages in their development
- helpful hints for reading aloud to children depending on age/stage
- popular book titles to consider for each stage
Consider printing this handout and posting it near a bookshelf or play area in your home. You can revisit the list to try new strategies, shake up your routine — and adjust your approach as your child begins a new stage of development. In time, your ‘reluctant reader’ can become a ’read aloud lover.’
Get more tips on having successful reading sessions with your little one