In many families, the typical nighttime ritual is take a bath, read aloud, then off to bed. For infants and toddlers, this establishes a routine to quiet down for the night. I know it worked in my home. My thirty-something sons can still join me in reciting favorite lines from picture books of their youth. As they got older (and I got tired of picture books), we moved on to classics like Tom Sawyer and Childhood’s End. Eventually they read to me, or curled up in bed with books they treasured. That early love of books and reading has stayed with them into adulthood.
But this routine doesn’t come naturally to all families. Sometimes the practice of prior generations, where literacy and the written word were not part of the culture, is carried forward by parents who never experienced the delight of being read to. Or parents may not be comfortable with their own reading ability. And increasingly in our world today, digital media seems much more interesting to kids who are not used to a reading routine. Television and video games keep kids occupied and entertained, but do little to support their future literacy.
The New York Times article “Pediatrics Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children From Birth” cites new research that indicates a gap in the roots of literacy for kids who do not get read to, talked to, or even sung to. Reading aloud to infants and toddlers is a big step toward literacy. And literacy is a strong indicator of future success for children.
Parents who do not instinctively reach for books to read to their children can be encouraged to start a new family tradition. Sharing a board book with an infant during floor time, reading picture books while potty-training, snuggling up with a book for family time, even reading out loud age-appropriate articles from news sources with older kids are great ways to help these young minds develop. Reading out loud also has the added benefit of helping kids sit calmly, having close interaction with parents and siblings, and hearing stories that spark the imagination.
Educators and caregivers can help families find book resources. Families with several English language learners may need help finding books that fit their needs. If a parent struggles with reading, a friend or an older child can help, but encourage the parent to be part of the process, too. If video games are eating time, suggest starting “reading breaks” where the games are set aside for a few minutes and family members read to each other.
Read to your babies, your toddlers, and all your children as well! It is fun, you will watch their minds open to new worlds, and you will be amazed at how quickly kids will want to read on their own.
Speaking of board books . . .
The Happy Healthy Baby® series giveaway ends Friday, June 27. Sign up today to win a set for your family or to give to someone who is learning to read to a new baby.
What are your favorite family books? How much time do you spend reading aloud to your kids? Have you helped another family learn to love family reading time, too?
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