Reading is one of the most beneficial things you can do with your child. You can begin to read to your child from as early as when he is in the womb, because hearing is one of the first senses to develop, long before your baby is born. This activity can continue till your child can read on his own. Even then, the fun need not stop.
Benefits of reading to your child
When you read to your child, he hears emotions and expressive sounds. This will encourage his emotional and social development. Reading encourages your baby to look and point, and ask questions, a boost for his language development. Imagining and following the story, and hearing about the things in his world enhance his cognitive skills.
As you read to your child, you are modeling that reading is important. Your child also begins to associate books with happiness, and this is an association that will serve him for a lifetime. If you read to your child, he will have more vocabulary at age 2 and learn to read faster than his peers. The most important reason you should read to your child, though, is that reading time is bonding time.
What to read to your child
Until about age 4 months, you can read whatever you want to your child. What’s important is for him to hear the sweetest voice in his world, your voice. From age 4-6 months, when your child can hold, mouth and chew books, you should get some bright plastic books with faces and shapes. After 6 months, rhyme books are great. They should have pictures of toys and objects your baby is used to. By age 1 year, most kids would turn the pages of a book. So, you should get them books they can easily flip. Vinyl, cloth or board books that will not tear quickly are advised. Get for them books about daily activities and routine, like eating, tooth brushing and bath time.
During the toddler years, the child’s vocabulary is expanding and you can help him along with short stories accompanied by pictures. Rhymes are still a favourite. As you read, ask questions about the characters to provide your child the opportunity to express himself. Read whatever the child asks for. Toddlers love to do stuff for themselves, so you can offer them several choices and have them pick, to give them a sense of control. They may also love to memorise some of the stories so they can recite them along. You can provide crayons and paper so they can draw their favourite characters in the books as well.
When to read to your child
You can read to your child at anytime. However, it is better when your child is well-fed and relaxed, since you want your child to associate reading with pleasure. Reading can also be made part of the bedtime routine, to help your child unwind after a busy day. Get ready to have the books enter the washbasin, the bathtub and the kitchen sink. If they are a favourite, they will go where your child goes.
How to read to your child
When you read to your child, be flexible about it. Your child may want to move on to something else after just a few lines, or may want the same book read to him thrice. Play along and make it a joyous activity for you both. Remember the aim is to make your child enjoy reading. Keep books at easy-to-reach areas for your child in your home.
Interactive books may make it less difficult to hold your child’s attention long enough to read a page. These books may sing at the press of a button, may come with pop-ups or have some flaps to be pulled. You can engage your child further by asking what will pop-up next, by dancing to the music together or just talking about what’s happening in the book.
Reading to your child on a budget
You do not need to keep buying books if that is a burden for you. Find the closest library and register your child. If you don’t mind buying but are on a budget, you can explore stores where books are subsidized. Alternatively, exchange books with other parents from work or faith groups to save on book-buying costs.
Reading is fun
Reading to your child can be fun for you both. Have fun and watch your reader today become a leader tomorrow.