According to the “National Parent Survey” performed by Zero to Three, almost half of parents think they should start reading with their children starting around two years of age. That is almost a year and a half later than when we should actually start reading with our children. In fact, a lot of research shows that the benefits of shared reading actually begin around six months.
Here are three ways we put together to turn your child into a reader by starting to read with them at six months old.
1) Make it a routine early on
Start making books a part of your daily lives early on. Books should become a part of your daily routines. Utilizing books at bedtime and naptime are usual, but you can add to these experiences by combining reading with bath time, meal time, or even when you share a commute like Uber.
2) Do it on their time and in their way
Sharing reading time is supposed to be fun. Don’t force it upon your children. Follow their lead, follow their cues, which will show you how interested they are. Babies will probably pay attention for a few minutes, while toddlers might keep their engagement for several stories. Turn it into an activity for them. If they want to touch, grab, or even hold the book then help them. Have them help you flip pages. Mirror their body language. They might jump up and down and you should match their energy level. Having colorful, rhythmic, and simple-to-follow stories will not only get the attention of your baby, but also will catch their attention as they get older since even toddlers find familiar experiences enjoyable. This experiential reading journey is commonly known as “dialogic reading.” This technique encourages adults to prompt children with questions and engage them in discussions while reading to them. This way it becomes more of an enjoyable and fun experience that remains quite memorable. The more engagement, enthusiasm, and discussion the better!
3) Take ownership
Take ownership of the stories by marrying them into your daily lives. If something similar to the story happened to your child in real life, stop reading the book for a moment and relate it back to your daily life by saying something like “hey, do you remember how something like this also happened to Max (the family dog)”. Describe the pictures, engage with the story; don’t just read it. It is important to make your children feel a part of the story. In fact, you can even use technology to go above and beyond, by making your child’s life the story. Use Snapchat to create a Snap story of your day and use it as a bedtime story to engage with. Or you can simply imagine the child is the main character and ask them how they feel in that particular instance. Ask, “What do you see? What do you hear? Who’s there? Allow the child to use their imagination to create their own story.”
Knowing that children can learn and develop the habit of reading as early as six months, it really is important to make it a part of your daily lives. Using these three ways to turn reading into a routine will not only turn them into a reader, but will also increase the time for bonding, social/emotional health, and learning.