Research shows that parents, caregivers, and family members can begin fostering an interest in reading, writing, and language as early as birth. It’s acquired through time spent talking, telling stories, and singing. Surrounding a child in a language rich environment with lots of attention, interaction and lots of things to see and do in their space also is essential to literacy development.
Spend Time Reading to Your Children
Families are encouraged to start reading to their children, even as babies. Taking just five to ten minutes a day to read to your child, whether it’s during playtime or part of your bedtime routine, can help develop a lifelong love of reading. Even at a young age, allowing your child to see, touch, and play with the book while you are reading creates interest and a true emotional connection between language and the feelings of being comforted and supported.
Older children should be encouraged to try to read along, to say the memorized parts of their favorite books, to point to the pictures and to ask questions. As children get older, discussions and “what if” questions about the pictures and the story will springboard into creative thinking activities. Families can also encourage older children to read by allowing them to choose their own books. By doing so, they learn to appreciate the different reasons that we choose to read in the first place. Explain to your children that we read for a purpose – whether it’s to learn something or for simple enjoyment.
It is important for children to see that their family members choose to spend some of their time reading. As children get older and their attention span lengthens, the entire family might decide to have some quiet reading time together. It is important for parents to set aside their distractions during this time to model reading by focusing on their book. Setting a “reading break” occasionally will allow family members to discuss the books they are reading with each other.
Tell Stories and Encourage Imagination
Even before children can read, they love to tell stories. This should be encouraged without any demands regarding the structure of the story. Just let the children explore their imagination out loud. You might also want to write down their story and have them create some artwork to illustrate it. This allows you to keep a record of their stories and provides children with something to share when others come to visit.
In this day in age, children are surrounded by electronic means of stimulation and the magic of reading is sometimes left undiscovered. Becoming a great reader happens one book at a time and developing a life-long love for reading starts in childhood.