Nurturing a Love for Reading in Kids Nurturing a Love for Reading in Kids

Early childhood educators are well aware of the wide variety of benefits to be gained from exposing children of all ages to the wonderful world of books. This article looks at the best ways to introduce infants and toddlers to books.

Brain research has revealed that two year old children have twice as many synapses, the connections between neurons, as adults and reading to babies helps "wire in" those synapses, so that babies gain an early intellectual boost. Early reading promotes early literacy.

How to begin
Even before infants are talking, you can help them begin a lifelong love of reading. Snuggle comfortably with baby on your lap and share books with bright, colourful pictures. Make sure you choose books which will survive sessions with teething babies!

Very young babies stare hard at black-and-white circles or simple face illustrations and by eight to 12 months, they listen attentively as you chant nursery rhymes, especially when the poem corresponds to the picture. A homemade book filled with family photos can provide comfort to babies of all ages. Ask parents to provide an album for their child and take the time to go through it with the baby and talk about the people on each page.

Create your own books
Cut out pictures of objects familiar to babies: a ball, family members, cookies, teddy bears etc and slip each one into a plastic flip file to create pages. As you go through the book together, talk about and verbally label each picture: "See the cat! Meow, meow. Soft cat, nice cat." Encourage babies to point to ears, eyes, or feet. This type of book is great to share with several babies snuggled close by.

Modify picture books
Often the story line of a book is too complex for a young baby. So, simplify and use your own words to describe the pictures. For instance, if you are reading Curious George, turn each page and exclaim: "Look, a monkey! Another monkey! More monkeys!" 

Remember: The story is less important than the pleasure you share as baby recognises the monkey's curly tail and brown fur. As you read with slightly older babies, be creative and make up a simple story about a character or animal on a page: "Look at that pony. He's galloping and running around on the grass. He loves to munch on the grass. Yum, it's good! Mama horse and little pony are eating their lunch."

Be dramatic
Your vocal expressions definitely make picture book reading more fun. Try all kinds of tones-showing surprise, whispering, drawing out vowels ("baby bear was sooooo sleepy!") to maintain baby's interest. When using a book to soothe baby, be sure to look for those with repetitive rhythms and gentle words (such as Goodnight Moon) so your voice and the story can work together to lull babies to sleep.

As you share books with toddlers, they learn that pages are read from top to bottom and turned from left to right and that pictures and printed words are related to each other. 

Books are also great memory stretchers and as toddlers remember story lines, they begin to choose what they want to hear over and over. Listening to preferred choices again and again increases a toddler's sense of self and security and they learn to really know a story.  Give your toddlers several choices of books, and you'll learn just which ones they enjoy the most.

Choose interactive books
Even when snuggled close for story time, some toddlers may have difficulty sitting still. Try to find books that encourage their participation by pushing moveable parts, uncovering a hiding teddy bear, making a clown pop up, or patting the bunny!

Help toddlers feel personally attached
Toddlers like to possess books so try and look for copies with handles or large plastic rings that toddlers can clutch and carry around as precious possessions. In other words, hook your toddlers on books, literally and figuratively!

Find books about kindly characters
As you graduate to reading stories, be sure to share books about characters being kind to one another. Stories which reflect typical toddler emotions such as frustration, anger, sadness and fear may also be useful.

Convey your pleasure
As you settle down to read, let the children know you enjoy books and reading together. After all, toddlers are great copycats. If you are involved in a simple story, toddlers will get swept into the tale. As you encourage them to help turn pages, toddlers become truly involved with books for pleasure, for learning, and for life!

How to nurturing a love of reading in the child care environment
  • Begin reading to children as young as possible
  • Sing songs, play rhyming games, label and describe things
  • Read books that have lots of repetition and encourage children to join in
  • Draw attention to words in the children's everyday environment
  • When reading to children first look at the book cover and ask the kids to predict what the story will be about. Next look at the pictures, talk about them and then read the story.
  • Make reading fun by changing the tone and pitch of your voice.
  • Talk about how the pictures help to tell the story.
  • Talk about the story after you have read it: Tell me your favourite part of the story. Who was your favourite character? etc.).
  • Re-read the children's favourite stories.
  • What to look for when choosing books for infants:
  • Simple, clear and colourful pictures with or without words.
  • Bright patterns or pictures with high contrast.
  • Real life pictures of babies, people, animals and toys.
  • Rhythm, rhymes, songs and simple poems.
  • Stories told with short, simple sentences and minimal text.
  • Pictures of familiar objects: teddy bears, trucks, home items.
  • Board or chubby books manageable for little hands.
  • Cloth or soft vinyl and other materials which are easy to wash and grasp.
What to look for when choosing books for toddlers:
  • Books with objects to name and identify.
  • Illustrated song books and movement stories.
  • Stories with sensory appeal such as different textures, smells and sounds.
  • Books with child's special interests: trains, bears, dinosaurs, pictures of family, friends and special activities.
  • Stories that encourage interaction and repeat phrases for children to echo.
  • Books with pop-ups or moveable parts.
  • Books with high interest topics such as bath and bedtime, large vehicles and animals.
  • Books that introduce colours and numbers.
  • Simple plots and predictable endings.
  • What to look for when choosing books for preschoolers.
  • Funny characters in silly situations.
  • Stories that tell about family, friends, school and relationships.
  • Books about their concerns, feelings and real-life experiences.
  • Plots with more action and description.
  • Counting books, ABC books, concept books.
  • More concept books -- colours, opposites, sizes.
  • Books with repetitive sentences that kids can memorize or read.
  • Books that give them a window into a bigger world
Written by Professor Emerita of Child Development at Syracuse University Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D. and reproduced from the Scholastic website.®
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