Emilie Buchwald was right when she said that “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” But what do you do, if the only reason your little tyke will touch a book is to tear out its pages and runs away each time you start reading? You as parents are your child’s first and most effective teachers. With a little imagination and effort you can soon make reading hour, something that both you and your child will look forward to doing together. Reading is one of those skills, where you can safely apply the ‘catch ‘em young’ policy.
Research shows that children as young as seven months can distinguish between colours and textures and can pick up words soon after. The key for you as parents is to make reading into a pleasurable activity and not just another chore to be ticked off the list. Here are some suggestions:
1. Take time out to read to your baby everyday. It can even be simple nursery rhymes or lullabies in bright coloured books. Make it a fun bonding time, with lots of cuddles and kisses. Your baby will love this combination of your touch your closeness and the soothing sound of your voice. Once he begins to enjoy this routine, slowly begin to point out the relevant pictures, while singing/reading and compliment it with animal or character sounds.
For instance, if you are singing old Mac Donald, moo like a cow or mew like a cat go on all fours – anything you can think of, to make it interesting and fun for your child.
2. You need not read to your child for a long time. Even 15 minutes would do .The key is to be consistent. If you have kids from different age groups, make it a point to read age relevant material to each of them separately.
3. For your toddler, pop up books are a great way to get his attention. Encourage him to turn the page and also to talk about the story and the characters involved. This way you can gauge how much of the story he has actually understood. Move your finger along the line as you read, so that he gets used to the idea of reading from left to right.
4. For toddlers, you need not limit your reading to just books. Once in a while, substitute the usual bedtime stories with an interesting news paper clipping related to the topic of his interest. For instance, read out interesting information about his favourite hero or a clipping about an animal which fascinates him.
5. It is a good idea to take your child to the local library and let him look through books in topics which interests him. If he likes animal stories, take him to that section, and let him decide which book to choose.
6. If your toddler doesn’t show interest in books, don’t force him, but don’t give up on reading either. Read to him while he is playing or get audiotapes of popular books he can listen to; maybe in the car. Once he gets interested in the story, read out the remaining from the book.
7. Form a toddler’s book club with like minded mothers and meet up once a month for a story telling session. Pick out a popular story book, say the jungle book, and enact parts of it; complete with props and masks. Arrange for snacks as an added incentive for the little ‘Dickens’s in the making’
8. Encourage your child to read not just from books but from ‘every day’ things like road signs, pamphlets takeaway menus- anything that catches his fancy.
9. Don’t be put off if your child wants to read the same book every night. Kids often find the familiarity and repetition soothing. So let him have his way .He will soon move on to other favourites.
10. Finally remember that this is not a competition, where you have to finish every book you start. The whole idea of this exercise is to introduce your child to the wonderful world of books, and help him open up his imagination and creativity.