It is very important to start reading to children from the very beginning. I know that I was reading to my children while they were still in the womb. It does not really matter what you read to them at that point but that you are indeed reading. When my daughter was very small she loved to listen to anything you wanted to read to her but refused to learn to read on her own. So I continued to read to her, she did not care what it was, she even enjoyed the dictionary. When she got into school and saw that some of the other children could read she was very upset and demanded to learn immediately, which she then accomplished quite nicely. It is important to find out what kind of a child you are dealing with early on and find out what works and what does not to instill a love for reading in their lives.
Seven years later I had a boy who did not even want to be read to. He would turn the pages and glance at the pictures only. If you were trying to read to him he would force you to turn the page before you were done and if you did not cooperate he would just turn his attention to something else. Can I say frustrating? I found that I had to resort to creative ways to get him interested. I found out that he liked the hidden pictures in the Highlight Magazines and he would read the “Goofus and Gallant” cartoon with me as well as the Timbertoes cartoon. I realized he was mainly interested in the pictures at this point so I found as many books as I could with pictures and very short sentences on each page. He also had a great interest in construction equipment so I found every book I could on this subject. I started buying the “Where’s Waldo” and “I Spy” books for him when he got a little older. He also was interested in “Captain Underpants” books. I don’t know what it is about boys but it seems that underpants are a fascinating topic. I have been working with my son for years and he does still not want to read like his sister but I will not give up. Do whatever works for your child as long as they are reading something, this is the goal.
I am going to give you a few ideas that may work for your child. The idea is not to give up!
- Start reading from birth – I know I already said this but I feel that it is very important. It is important to start reading with your children from the beginning. I did this with both my children and they both responded to reading differently. It does help you in seeing how they respond and helping you to adjust your strategy while they are still very young.
- Read the same books over and over – When you see that your child has an interest in a certain book read it again and again. My daughter had a book she loved from before she could talk that I read to her time and time again. When she could hold the book alone she “read” the book out loud and turned the pages at the right time. Everyone thought she was a genius child! She had memorized the book and when to turn the pages and she loved sitting there and doing just that!
My son also had a book when he was very young that he loved to look at the pictures in. It was about construction equipment, all kinds of different trucks and bulldozers, etc. with a simple sentence on each page. After reading this book over and over he could tell you the names of all the equipment as he thumbed through the book.
- Have the books easily accessible – set up a book shelf or book basket and a comfy place for them to read. My children loved bean bags and then as my daughter got older she had one of those hammock chairs. They would curl up in their chairs next to the bookshelf and read. Often my daughter would read to my son who was younger. This is also a good way to encourage the younger children to read, have the older children read to them as well as yourself.
- Use stuffed animals or puppets to read to your children – My girl loved puppets and would often talk to the puppets like they were really talking even though she could clearly see my mouth moving. She had a huge imagination! She loved it when the puppets talked to her. My son on the other hand knew I was a phony and demanded that I stop, it may have scared him, I am not really sure. He did however like stuffed animals talking, go figure. I would use a different voice and tell stories that they were both fascinated with. Using props to read to your children is great if that sparks their interest. Have the puppet or the stuffed animal read using the voice of the puppet/animal. Often you can get children to sit and listen to the reading of a book this way.
- Audio books – Audio books helped my son a lot when he was younger. His sister started reading him the “Hank the Cow Dog” series and he loved it. When we went on vacation we decided to get him some audio books to help him on the ride. We did this for my daughter also but for a different reason, she got car sick when she read! Anyway, he loved listening to the audio books and he would look at the book itself to see if there were pictures to go along with the story. It helped to peak his interest about the joys of reading.
- Read with emotion – Watch carefully how you are reading. Make it exciting, use silly voices for each character. Jump or gasp when the story gets scary or exciting. Make the book come alive to your children and make them want more.
- Try reading pop-up books, books that make sound, or the little doors you open – My son loved books that had a door to open! I think it was one Christmas someone gave him an advent book and it has a little door to open every day. He absolutely loved it. So I looked for books that had doors to open or any kind of interactive book. He also loved books that talked or made noises. I was just thrilled anytime he opened a book!
- Leapfrog Tag Reader – Both of my children loved to use the pen. My daughter really wanted the help and my son just liked the way it worked. But either way they were reading the books.
- Poetry, rhymes, or songs – Many children love to sing and this would be a great way to get them to read. There are books with poems which we have made into songs like Little Bunny Foo Foo, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, etc. They often have adorable pictures and you can sing the book to your child. My daughter loved poems and rhyming. The first book she fell in love with was a book of short, cute poems. One was a poem that went, “There was a little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead. And when she was good she was very, very good but when she was bad she was horrid!” I do not know why she liked that poem but she did and many others as well. I still repeat this poem to her to this day and in fact she does have a curl that sometimes hangs down on her forehead! She continued to love poetry and began to write some of her own as well.
- Go to places to explore or see things you have read about – As I have already told you my son loved construction equipment. We would take him by construction sites and look at the machinery and he was able to tour the construction site. My daughter loved bats and all kinds of animals so we went to the zoo and pet stores to see the animals in person. We even donated to the zoo so that my daughter could “adopt” a bat and she received a certificate of adoption. She loved to go look at the bats to see how her bat was doing. Make the books come alive to your children and they will want to read all the more.
- Take trips to the public library – Let your children pick out their own books and sit and read in the comfy children’s section at your public library. Find out when story time is at the library and go at that time so they can sit and listen with the other children. Buy them a canvas book tote and decorate it and put their name on it. Make getting new books fun.
- Make sure your children see you reading – I know in this day and age a lot of us have Kindles, iPads, or read on the internet but it is important to have your child see you read an actual book or newspaper as well.
- Set aside a reading time everyday – We had the habit of reading at bedtime because the children of course want to extend their bedtime but also it seemed to relax them for sleep. We read at other times also but this was the time we set aside every day to read and we did not deviate. It is important to have a time set aside to read daily and discuss what you read as you go along. You need to interact with your children during reading and ask them questions about what they are reading to develop reading comprehension.
These are some of the ways that I was able to help my children glean an appreciation for books. I hope that they will help you with your children as well. It is important to watch your child and get an understanding of what they are interested in and what sparks their interest and then follow that lead. You are giving your child a wonderful, irreplaceable gift when you give them a love for reading.
Nancy Parker was a professional nanny and she loves to write about wide range of subjects like health, Parenting, Child Care, Babysitting, nanny, www.enannysource.com/ etc. You can reach her @ nancy.parker015 @ gmail.com.