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Pick up a Book and Read to your Child!

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“I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

 

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

 

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.”

 

Our memories are made of magic ingredients. Your children may well remember you with the sentiment expressed in the above poem by Strickland Gillian.

I started reading to my children when they were about one week old. Not everyone feels this strongly about reading to their children at such an early age, but reading to children is important for their development. The ability to read, comprehend and to communicate effectively is of utmost importance and is best taught from a young age.

When you start reading stories to children it prepares them to read for themselves. One of the problems we find in teaching children is the wide difference in preparedness for reading that children exhibit from the first week of school. We can usually guess which children have parents who spend some time reading to them. They know how to handle books, they like stories, they know how to listen actively, they have well-developed vocabularies, and they are eager to begin reading by themselves as compared to the children whose parents have not spent much time reading to them.

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Reading to a toddler younger than three is far different from reading to an older child. “I just don’t seem to enjoy reading to my two-year-old,” a young mother told me. “She just won’t sit still and pay attention to me.” This mother wouldn’t have been this frustrated had she realized that her daughter’s actions were normal and completely understandable for her age. The constant interruptions and questions tend to develop the child’s ability to think critically about what’s been read to him. A young child needs time to test and play with the new words and concepts he’s been learning from his books. When he understands a passage from a book, he will stop interrupting, but will, perhaps, find something in a different part of the book that puzzles him. 

How can the same genre of books possibly interest children whose ages range from 1 to 18? Then there are those families with children of different ages. Probably the older children wouldn’t care much for Cinderella, so the reading level of the older children should be highly sought. It is surprising how much a toddler can “stretch” to understand something his older siblings find interesting.

Young children tend to learn language patterns, rhythm, and rhymes by memorizing certain parts of stories or poems. Rhyming lines are a lot easier for a child to remember. They love to participate by reciting the part that they know. Even a two-year-old feels a sense of involvement if he can answer “Not I” to the Little Red Hen, or recite the Gingerbread Boy’s chant. Ask your child, for instance, “What did batwing say when Willy Komodo failed to catch the toads?” By letting your children experiment with different voices, you enhance their creativity. It helps them to learn to listen to the differences in tone and to infer meanings from them. We do the same thing with our ELP program in Little Elly. And it doesn’t take any longer to read to five children than it does to read to one.

Desire or motivation is one of the most important factors in a child who’s learning to read. What greater motivation can a toddler program have than to see his parents, the people he loves and admires most in the whole world, read and share books with him? This will encourage him to sit and read just because he wants to be like them.  The most commonly asked question is that should parents stop reading to their children once their children begin to read in school? Absolutely not! Reading aloud together at home can help build your child’s vocabulary, improve their reading skills, and foster a sense of closeness between you and your child. You should encourage discussion about characters and share your reactions to books to help reinforce the connection between what you read and everyday life. Reading is so important that most of the school teachers should devote 15 to 20 minutes to this activity each day. Reading to your child introduces new books to them and helps broaden their interests. Children are often ready to read a book above their usual reading level if it’s one they have heard often and like a lot. This gives them a sense of accomplishment while the assigned material they read at their school might not. Parents shouldn’t worry about taking the edge off a book by reading it to their kid before he reads it on his own. Is there any child who does not relish hearing or reading their favorite story over and over again? Any book that the teacher has read aloud to the class is in constant demand by the children to check out for their own reading. Stories don’t always have to be read. Telling a familiar folk tale such as The Three Bears or reciting rhymes while dressing or feeding a toddler is fun. But a word of warning, please don’t try to read aloud a book that you dislike or find boring. Just as exuberance is contagious, so is indifference. It’s hard to fool children. Parents need never be at a loss when it comes to choosing books for a family reading. Children should be made members of a library. They should be encouraged to visit the local library regularly. These visits could be to go through books for referencing for school work or just for pleasure reading. There are other willing sources of help as well. Many bookstores and sites have lists of suggested books for all age levels. Reading and discussing favorite stories can draw a family closer together. Good stories present realistic situations where decisions must be made and consequences follow. Parents can learn something from their children’s attitudes and can teach their own values while discussing how the story characters solve their problems. How often do you and your family read? There is no specific answer to that question. I know of one family who felt that a daily family reading time was so important that they woke up early on Sundays to read together for 30 minutes before breakfast. The most important thing is to enjoy family reading. It shouldn’t be forced into your daily schedule. Sometimes you might want to take a break after reading a long book and wait until you find a book so good that you simply must-read it together. Reading together is one of the few activities a family can participate in that is absolutely free. Instead of working and worrying to provide your children with material possessions that are soon broken and forgotten, instead try giving them more time and love.  “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”
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