With so much learning ahead of them, parents may wonder when to begin to introduce reading to infants and small children.
Is it possible to start too early? too late?
Is there a best way to get little ones started with reading?
Here are answers to those and some other great questions!
Babies are born with undeveloped and immature brains. As they grow during those first essential years, babies are busy creating new brain cells that help mature the infantile brain. The more children are exposed to reading and language during the first few years, the more brain cells will develop, helping children’s brains grow and mature. When parents ask whether it is ever too early to begin reading, the answer is NO! Parents can begin reading to their children during pregnancy. During the fifth month of pregnancy, the unborn child is able to begin to hear sound. The time spent maturing in the womb can be a time that children become accustomed to the rhythm and tone of language.
After birth, parents should continue to read to their newborns to help them become further accustomed to the sounds of language and speech. The infants’ brains will develop more complex language and communication centers as a result of early and consistent exposure to language and reading.
Here are 5 great strategies to introduce reading to your child during those early years:
1) Begin reading to your baby right away! Let baby touch the book you are reading. Give babies fabric and board books to play with along with toys and blocks.
2) Read great stories to toddlers! Toddlers are ready for a more complex reading experience. Choose wonderful children’s stories, fairy tales with good morals, and quality poetry.
3) Engage your toddler and preschooler in the story! Approach each new book as an adventure. Stimulate your child’s curiosity about the story inside. Ask questions like “Can you guess what this book is about?” or “Why do you think there is a pink parrot on the cover?”. Once you have begun reading the story, ask your child to explain what is happening. A great question to engage young readers is “What do you think will happen next?”.
4) Use arts and crafts to fully engage your child in the reading experience! Trace or photocopy the front cover or some of the illustrations from the books you read. Encourage your child to color in the pages and explain what is happening in the picture. Over time, your child will be able to draw pictures about the story without help, and this may evolve into your child writing and illustrating original stories!
5) Inspire your preschooler or primary grade student to become an author and illustrator! Staple folded paper together and give your child colored pencils, crayons, markers, or water colors to create original stories. While children explore their inner creativity, create a word list for young authors to help them with spelling their stories. Becoming an author is one of the best ways a child can put together the complex parts of reading and literacy … from spelling and grammar to comprehension and and literary style.
6) Use a shared reading method to launch your child’s independent reading! Shared reading is a gradual method that slowly expands your child’s reading skill. Begin by asking your child to point to every letter “I” on each page. Each book you read, ask your child to point to a different letter. Then move on to have your child identify small words like “an” and “the”. Next, ask your child to read the first word of each page … then the first sentence of each page … then the first paragraph of each page. Eventually, your child will be able to read every other paragraph … then every other page. Until your little one is able to read to you independently!
The great news is that TODAY is the perfect time to start your child on the path toward reading and literacy. Reading is an essential skill that allows children to thrive in today’s fast paced world. More than ever, people need to be able to read in order to complete out job applications, run a household, and function as an independent adult. Reading and literacy are fundamental skills that directly impact a child’s ability to grow up to become an effective member of society. The more you engage your little one in the ceremony of reading, the more excited and engaged your child will become with reading. And reading and literacy are gifts that keep on giving back to your child for a lifetime.
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