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Raising a Reader

by Dr. Susan Canizares | January 12, 2015 | Early Education & Literacy

Tips for Raising a Reader - Early LiteracyWhat’s the single most important thing you can do to help your child prepare for reading and learning? Would you believe it only takes 15 minutes a day? Yes, that’s it.

The answer: Read to your child.

Does just 15 minutes a day make a difference? You bet it does. Spending 15 minutes a day reading aloud to your child from birth to age five equals 27,375 minutes! That’s 456.25 hours of critical language and vocabulary!

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended daily reading because studies show that fewer than half (48 percent) of U.S. children are read to by a family member daily. And at age 3, children who aren’t given these opportunities have heard 30 million fewer words than children who were.

Reading aloud to children has an incredible impact on their ability to learn to read – and more. Research shows children who are read to will not only be better readers, they’ll be more successful learners, in every subject. So start reading aloud, whenever possible – and as often as possible.

Books can calm when things are hectic. They can be soothing at bedtime and can also make waiting fun, such as in a restaurant when the meal hasn’t yet arrived or during a sibling’s dance or karate lesson. And there’s no better adventure on a rainy day than a good book.

But best of all is – children love being read to. And when you enjoy the experience together, nothing beats it. To make the most of it the next time you settle in with a good book – try a few of these tips!

  1. Choose a book you are excited about, or your child is excited about. It’s much easier to have fun with reading when you can enjoy the story.
  2. Preview the book. Take a few minutes to scan the book before you start. This will help you to read more fluently and with expression. You can think about places to pause and make a comment or ask your child a question.
  3. Get comfortable. Kick off your shoes and snuggle in for some great lap and talk time.
  4. Read with expression. Use your voice, your face, your eyes, and your body! Children depend on cues in our tone, expression, and body language to learn language. Vary your voice, make it louder and softer, use higher tones and deeper tones.
  5. Have fun, while learning. Rich vocabulary is found in reading wonderful picture books. Enjoy the fun of the joint exploration of story and pictures.
  6. Vary your pace. Read at a moderate pace so children can absorb your words and the details of the story. But, also speed up or slow down to match the events in your story, and allow time for children to enjoy the illustrations, which often tell more of the story than the words do!
  7. Try on voices for different characters. Help children distinguish dialogue between characters by giving each one their own “voice.”
  8. Involve your child in the reading. Stop and discuss the book when children make observations or ask questions. Answer questions as they come up and acknowledge your child’s input.
  9. Consider different genres. In addition to fiction picture books, read poetry, nursery rhymes, and non-fiction. Have fun with the rhythm of chanted poems and the singsong quality of familiar nursery rhymes. Younger children especially enjoy books that illustrate and label familiar things such as hat, truck, dog, or balloon. And basic non-fiction about dinosaurs, space, animals, or the ocean are perfect for older children who express even the slightest interest in the subject. Often an interest sparked in early childhood ignites a lifelong passion.
  10. Read and repeat. If you find a book that becomes a particular favorite, don’t be afraid to read it again, and again, and again. Likewise, if you find you and your children are not enjoying a book, stop. You’re not obliged to finish every book you start. Just pick another one!
  11. And don’t forget the s-l-o-w finish! Author and literacy expert, Mem Fox says, “If anything could be more important than the first line of a story, it’s the last line.” Dragging out the last line provides the dramatic finish every good story deserves.

To jump start and inspire your reading, check out some great selections at Scholastic Book Lists or Reading Rockets Book Lists. Search by age, topic, or award winners.

Or, visit your local library and ask for recommended reads.