Reading with kids: Some tips and advice
Reading with your young child is much more than just pointing at pictures and turning the pages. Besides being fun, it also offers many benefits for a growing mind.
The benefits of early reading
Research has shown that reading together from an early age, as young as infancy, can help your child enter formal schooling with a rich vocabulary and better readiness to learn.
Developing literacy habits from a very young age helps children acquire important skills such as phonological awareness (knowledge of the sounds in words), comprehension and oral language skills.
Reading also enriches your child's narrative (storytelling) skills, imagination and understanding of their environment.
Engaging babies with books
Although they are a while away from understanding letters or words, you can already introduce babies and infants to the concept of reading by looking at picture books together.
At such a young age, babies benefit from picture books with bold colours and textures. Naturally board books are often better designed to endure the firm grasp of small hands.
Books for the very young
Turning reading into an interactive, rather than passive, activity is a great way to get your little one interested and engaged - especially toddlers who have infamously short attention spans!
There are some great books that have tips for parents on each page, such as "Baby, it’s you!"
As you read, do some of the actions with your child. For example, if there is a picture of a ball, gently bounce your baby on your knees whilst emphasising "bounce bounce bounce!"
Learning sound segments and rhymes
As your child grows, you can progress to reading words or simple stories aloud.
Rhymes and poems are fantastic for developing children’s phonological awareness. Children learn that words are made up of segments of sounds: "cat", “mat”, "bat" all share "-at". Kids use this skill in both reading and spelling.
From nursery rhymes to rhyming stories, such as "Hairy Maclary", there are lots of fun ways to explore rhyming.
If you're reading (for the umpteenth time) their favourite book, or a book with a repetitive structure (such as "Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See?"), pause at a repeated phrase or word to give your child the opportunity to read along. It is also a great confidence boost for their emerging skills.
Bring the book to life!
For books with animals or transportation, have the child stomp their feet like an elephant and flap their big ears or zoom like a motorcycle.
For books with food, use it as an opportunity to have your child join you in the kitchen and use the food from the story in a recipe. Relate books to your child’s environment and experiences.
Books without words
Wordless books are great for all ages. They allow you to make up the story and tailor it to your child's needs.
For my daughter, we have some interactive wordless books so we can read with her in our own languages. For older children, encourage them to tell a story or comment on each page.
As your child grows and the books become more complex, ask your child questions to help develop their comprehension skills, or have them tell a sibling or another person what the story was about. If needed, help them sequence and retell the story.
Questions on how they would have solved a problem in the story, or if they enjoyed it, encourage children to reflect on the story. Providing young readers with your own thoughts and opinion as an example is also helpful.
Grow independent readers
Reading together is a great way to help children develop an interest in books and become independent readers. Have fun, explore the many worlds and adventures within the pages, and watch their imaginations soar.
Children’s Book Week 2015
Kinderboekenweek, the Netherlands’ Children's Book Week, runs from October 7 to 18 this year, and celebrates children's literacy with events and activities taking place at bookshops and libraries nationwide.