The Modern Rules of Reading to Your Child
When Vansh was 6 months old, the first books I got for him were from a local book shop. And they were the regular books costing Rs 50-60 on vehicles, vegetables, fruits, a book of nursery rhymes and some other random story books. Initially I would sing to rhymes while getting him ready or feeding, but gradually we made it a habit of reading at bedtime. Over time I observed that as soon as I would start to read alouds, Vansh would raise his hands and legs with glee! That’s where we started our journey and today, at 4 years of age, my son really loves his books and is an early emerging reader.
Well, if you want the same for your kid then here is telling you all you want to know about reading to your child...
So what is the right age to start reading to your child?
They say the child can also hear his / her mom in the womb, which is the philosophy behind Garbh Sanskar. If you are open to playing music to your child, take a moment to think and you will realise, it makes more sense to have your child listen to your own voice as music and stories! As you read to your little ones, they get a feel of the sounds and the rhythm of the speech which helps promote early speaking and literacy skills.
Should there be a schedule to follow?
Anytime and everytime is a good time to read, tell stories or sing to your little one. But when you start reading to your child regularly, at a set time, say just before putting him /her to bed at night. Children start developing a pattern and associate better and thus enjoy themselves more with the predictability in their schedule.
Infants and toddlers enjoy being read the same stories over and over again because of the predictability.
How should you read to your little one?
The primary task is to ensure that reading books is enjoyable. If books and stories are fun there is no reason anyone would run away from it. After all everyone enjoys a good story! In Spite of all your efforts, if the child is not taking to books, please try not to force the child, anything forced upon cannot be fun. The child needs to have freedom to pick and chose when to read and mostly also what to read.
Start with age appropriate stories and if your little one can express his / her preferences it would be good to go with them.
Here are a few tips to make reading fun..
- Make sure that it is an exclusive time for you and your child, without any distractions for your child, read: TV, phone, computer or your laundry, kitchen, phone etc.
- Please don’t expect your toddler to sit still and pay attention to what you are saying, they will try out all the yoga poses, jump on you and walk away. Keep reading / telling the story while they are around.
- Children love rhymes and prefer the ones where they get a chance to dance and move with you.
- Toddlers have short attention spans, try choosing books where the text is short, with catchy images.
- Go slow enough for the child to follow and imagine what lies ahead.
- Sometimes it is not important to read aloud the entire book in the first go but just tell the story in a concise manner and once the child enjoys the storyline with every successive read you can keep adding more detail to the story. (eg – many times different characters are described in great detail but don’t have a lot of relevance to the story, in such cases you can eliminate some portions of the description). This is only if your toddler doesn’t sit around for long enough.
Also once the child has started enjoying the story, start pointing out to words to try and build some reading skills.
- In the Indian context we have multiple languages being spoken at home. So often, children don’t really understand the story when it is being read out in English and they end up losing interest. In such cases please do try to tell the story in the child’s mother tongue and then with successive reads one can read out parts of the book in English and then translate it. The level of the language used can depend on the child’s comfort.
- Make sure that you build up suspense and drama. Adults and kids both love emotions! Pace yourself keeping in mind the story. Try to make your voice reflect the tone of the story. Storytelling is an art after all!
What kind of books to pick?
For infants, all that matters is engaging with the child (by just sitting next to him or with a cuddle). How about doing all that with a book in hand?
The book needs to have minimal words and bright pictures, lots of textures, rattles, sounds, etc. It would also be a good idea to get stories based on characters (eg. Bubbles,Pepper, Benny, Bruno etc (Indian Publications); Maisy, Spot, Peepa Pig, Curious George etc (Publications from abroad)).
Kids can associate faster with a lot of events happening around their favourite characters. Children get hooked on to these books and sometimes want them read and re-read multiple times! Our job as parents then, is to introduce them to diversity in terms of content and authors, to help them pick what is their area of interest (which will keep changing with time).
You can get an idea of the types of infant /toddler books available from these articles.
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