Getting your child interested in reading holds great value for a his development. Research shows that reading can boost cognitive ability and verbal skills in children (A.E. Cunningham, K.E Stanovich). Reading for leisure can be a much-needed relaxation activity for children, and also boosts their imagination as they are introduced to new worlds and characters. Fluent reading is essential for children to be self-directed learners, once they are at the preschool age.
Beyond sending them to reading programmes at enrichment centres, here are some essential yet simple ways you can raise an avid reader:
Follow their Interests
Child-led learning is a highly effective way of teaching any skill. Observe your preschooler closely, and identify their areas of personal interest. Choose books that are aligned with your child’s likes to hold their attention and draw them into the reading experience. For example, a child who loves sea animals will be more open to reading a book about sharks, while another who loves cars may prefer a car-related story.
You may also tie the reading experience to your children’s preferred activity, making it more attractive to a reluctant reader. If they enjoy art and craft, you could create a craft activity based on the book you are reading together. This will encourage them to look forward to the reading activity.
Choose Quality Books
Not all books are created equal. High quality books have a few things in common. Firstly, they espouse positive values and characteristics, which you can discuss in detail after reading. When choosing a book for a young reader, find one that uses simple language and has short stories. Young children rarely have the patience for long and complex narratives. Simple books also aid in comprehension and help them connect with the story and enjoy it fully.
Read Aloud to a Fidgety Child
Many parents start reading very early to their children—which is great! Research has shown that when we read to young children, their memory and grasp of vocabulary increase as well (Dr. John S. Hutton). A common parental concern is that children constantly move around, and won’t sit still to finish the book together. However, movement and short attention spans are the hallmarks of childhood, and can’t be curbed. Instead of insisting that your child sit still, consider reading aloud to them, while they play, in a common space. This gives your child exposure to vocabulary and language, and can be an enjoyable story-telling time for the both of you.
Make Reading a Part of Your Routine
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Similarly, inculcating positive reading habits from the start will help your child become a fluent reader in the future. One way to achieve this is to structure reading into your daily schedule. Once they recognizes that reading is a consistent feature in his routine, children are less likely to be resistant to it.
You could also turn the reading time into a special family tradition. Choose a quiet and conducive place to read together after school, or at bedtime. Take turns with your spouse to read with your child, so both of you get a chance to enjoy one-on-one time with your little one.
Keep it Age-Appropriate
Sometimes, a parent’s anxiety about their child’s reading ability stems from excessive expectations for a child of that age. It is important to know what the age-appropriate reading and comprehension milestones are for your child, and take a measured approach when encouraging your child to read. For example, you would not push a young child to read a complex article, but you might expect them to attempt a simple picture book with a few high-frequency words instead.
Encourage and Praise Often
Be patient with your child in their reading journey. Resist the urge to compare their reading level with their peers. Instead, focus on the effort that your child is making, and consistently praise your child for their hard work and perseverance. This will have a positive impact on them in the long run.
Visit the Library Regularly
Providing your child with access to a wide variety of books is important, but it doesn’t have to bust your budget. Make a visit to your neighbourhood library to expose your child to a vast range of books, ranging from fiction to non-fiction and covering a multitude of topics—there will certainly be something for everyone.
Look Out for Signs of Learning Needs
At times, despite a parent’s best efforts, a child may continue to struggle with reading. This might signal a learning need that needs to be addressed. Learning disabilities are not necessarily an impediment to reading well. With early intervention strategies and crucial support, children with learning needs may successfully learn to read.
Teaching your child to read can be a precious and memorable milestone in your parenting journey. With a positive attitude and a conducive environment, you can cultivate a love for reading in your child, and strengthen your relationship with them as well.
Article by: Judith Xavier
© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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Also published on Medium.