Contrary to some misconception, this isn’t just about reading children’s stories they can’t read themselves yet. It is much more about putting time to one side for a shared parent or care provider-child emotional interaction.
That is exactly what reading is. It is a unique sharing experience and one that can hugely help children to develop both their listening skills and their imagination.
If reading is important, it’s equally important to “do it right”. So, here are some top tips.
Allocate sufficient time
We all lead busy lives and time is often short. Even so remember that, just like adults, children can tell when they’re being squeezed down to the smallest possible allocation of time. That can be hurtful and lead to resentment.
There is a balance to be struck of course and young children have an infinite capacity to absorb attention. However, make the allocation of some significant time a priority. Rushing a reading session into 2 minutes can be counter-productive.
Define start and end points
A great technique is to stop your reading at a given logical point. At the end of a chapter or somewhere else that leaves an element of “what happens next?”. It gives kids something to look forward to at the next reading session.
Get away from distractions
Reading is intensely personal engagement.
You’re unlikely to be able to get the right ambience if you’re trying to read whilst dogs are barking, phones ringing, older children squabbling nearby, and so on.
Try to find a quiet isolated space where your child or children feel they have access to your time without competition – and leave your mobile elsewhere for the duration.
Select appropriate levels
Many parents like to think they will stretch their children a little by reading books to them that are aimed at older children.
That may be appropriate in some cases where a child is ahead of the norms for comprehension for their age but it can also be demoralising for children if they’re struggling to understand the material you’re reading.
In general, select stories that are roughly defined for the child’s age or only a little past it.
Kids can tell whether your reading is a chore you’re doing reluctantly or something you’re enjoying.
True, you might not find the material exactly edge-of-seat stuff but try to pretend you do. Look as if you’re as engaged in the story as they are.
Try factual and fiction
Most kids love learning. So, they might be just as receptive to reading from, say, a book on nature as they would be a story.
Vary things and keep their interest alive.
Let your child/children see the text if possible
Even if the book is beyond your child’s own reading ability, try to sit alongside them so they can see the pages. While they listen they’ll also be reading the words and recognising increasing numbers of them.
For younger kids, stories and materials with pictures are really appreciated too.
Your children are very likely to interrupt constantly with questions and explanations.
That’s something you should encourage and somehow find the time to answer as fully as possible. Yes, it’s possible to get trapped in a loop of never-ending questions! Even so, this is a very healthy sign and one you should welcome and nurture.
At the end of a hard day, reading can take some effort but above all, do try and enjoy it!
This phase won’t last long in the lives of your kids and it can generate fantastic memories for you and the children in later life.