A Gift For The Whole Family — And One That Will Last A Lifetime

 Today’s parents are faced with many different responsibilities and almost always a lack of time, especially to find quality moments with their children during the hustle and bustle of the day.

There are few quiet moments the family can enjoy together, but there is one activity parents can encourage that could provide the most important lessons and memories of childhood.

And — better yet — it is virtually free, can be done anywhere, at anytime, and by all ages.

What is this miracle activity?  The simple joy of reading.

Parents Magazine reported:

Keep it light and fun. Books should make you laugh and smile, transport you to faraway lands, and transform you into dragon-slaying sleuths, making you feel all the feels along the way. “If we treat books like they’re magical, kids will grow up believing that too,” says Shanna Schwartz, lead senior staff developer at Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York City.

So how do we as parents encourage our children to enjoy reading, and develop it into a lifelong love?

Infants and toddlers:  Reading to your child from the earliest age.

It is never too early to introduce our children to books.  Infants and toddlers will love the colorful pictures in board books, and large, simple text helps them to differentiate written words, even if they do not yet understand them.

Create a reading routine; early morning or bedtime where everyone cuddles up in a cozy spot with a few favorite books so little ones learn to associate reading with special bonding times.

Bright Horizons reported on the benefits of reading to infants and toddlers:

Reading to infants contributes to the development of their growing brains and gives them a good start towards a lifelong love of reading and good literature. When you read to babies, it can also help speech development as they are taking in information and beginning to learn about speech patterns. In addition, synapses connect between your infant’s neurons as you read aloud, positively affecting child development in many areas.

Infants tune in to the rhythm and cadence of our voices, especially the familiar voices of their parents and caregivers. While initially the rhythmic phrase, “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?”, for example, may not hold meaning, your baby is taking in the sounds of language and how they fit together. As babies see a picture of a red bird in the book and you name the bird, they begin to make the connection between what you say and the picture of the red bird. The more you read that book, thestronger the connection. The repetitive storyline makes the book fun, engaging, and easier to remember. Reading to babies is not only a way to inspire a love of books from infancy, but also an important way to grow a baby’s vocabulary – first his understanding vocabulary and later her speaking vocabulary.

When reading to an infant, use different tones of voice and funny faces while looking through simple books.  Even if a board book contains no words, you can make up stories, words that rhyme, or descriptive language.  For example, state the shapes and colorsof objects in the pictures and be descriptive about anything you see.

At this age, your baby loves hearing your voice and seeing your face. The early introduction of books creates a strong foundation for a love of reading.  Taking time to read to your very young child daily increases the parent and child bond, and in no time they will associate books with fun times with mom and dad!

Preschool and early elementary:  Continuing the fun and encouragement.

For children who are a bit older but still not reading on their own, there are many ways to make reading interactive.  Choose a special book for the week and plan family activities around that theme.  Children can dress up and act out characters’ parts while a parent reads the dialogue.  Or plan a fun meal or snack that relates to the story. (A classic example is serving “green eggs and ham” while reading the Dr. Seuss book.)

Make early reading a time of play by scheduling a playdate where every child brings their favorite book to share.  Set out art supplies for them to recreate their favorite scenes.  There are numerous sources online to access free coloring pages for just about every book you can imagine.

Does your child have a particularly favorite book?  Plan their next birthday party using that book as the theme. Children can dress like their favorite character and party foods and games can go along with the theme of the book.

You can even make a fort or playhouse following their favorite book’s theme (think, The ThreeLittle Pigs’ houses) so they can create scenery to act out the book or just to play in while they read it. All you need is a big cardboard box and some art materials!

You can also keep this idea in mind for a permanent reading corner in the playroom or bedroom.  A tent, teepee, or curtain can make an enclosed area which you can fill with pillows and baskets of books to give your child a fun place for reading.

Obviously, take advantage of the library!  There are so many resources available, from storytime for all ages. Your local librarian can recommend books that appeal to your child’s interests.  Make a trip to the library a special time by showing your own enthusiasm for finding new books to take home.

Give your child their own “library” tote bag (they can even decorate this with fabric paint) to carry their own books back and forth.  Create a special box or basket in your home in which to keep library books separate from the child’s own books. Your child can decorate the “library box” themselves, and when you go on your next library visit, they can pack up the books to return and then put the newfound titles away in their box.

No matter their age, read to your child as often as possible.

Reading to your child at different times of day is a way to insert quality time into a busy schedule.  Carry books with you everywhere and take a few moments to look through them while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, during an older sibling’s athletic event, or keep a basket of them in the kitchen for your child to look through them while you are preparing meals.  Having books in the car, throughout the house, or available in the diaper bag make for reading opportunities whenever a spare moment arises.

Choose books from home or the library pertaining to whatever activity your family is doing.  Going to the zoo this weekend?  Read some animal books the week before.  Have a grandparent visiting?  Choose some books on grandparents and family members.  There are even waterproof books about bathtime, so read to your child while they play in the tub!

Mommy Underground will bring you tips and tactics for keeping the fun going with older children, so be sure to check back with us!

What are some fun ways you have introduced reading to your little ones?  Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below.