Pick up a book and read to your child!

“I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.”

Our memories are made of magic ingredients. Your children may well remember you with the sentiment expressed in the above poem by Strickland Gillian.

My Experience & memories:

I started reading to my children when they were about one week old. Not everyone feels this strongly about reading to their children at such an early age but reading to children is important for their development. The ability to read, comprehend and, to communicate effectively is of utmost importance and is best taught from a young age.

When you start reading stories to children, it prepares them to read for themselves. One of the problems we find in teaching children is the wide difference in preparedness for reading that a child exhibits from the first week of school. We can usually guess which children have parents who spend some time reading to them. They know how to handle books, they like stories, they know how to listen actively, they have well-developed vocabularies, and they are eager to begin reading by themselves as compared to the children whose parents have not spent much time reading to them.

Reading for toddlers – Do they even remember?

But reading to a toddler younger than three is far different from reading to an older child. “I just don’t seem to enjoy reading to my two-year-old,” a young mother told me. “She just won’t sit still and pay attention to me.” The mother wouldn’t have been this frustrated had she realized that her daughter’s actions were normal and completely understandable for her age. The constant interruptions and questions tend to develop the children’s ability to think critically about what’s been read to them. A young child needs time to test and play with the new words and concepts he’s been learning from his books. When he understands a passage from a book, he will stop interrupting, but will, perhaps, find something in a different part of the book that puzzles him.

Then there are those families with children of different ages. How can the same genre of books possibly interest children whose ages range from 1 to 18? Probably the older children wouldn’t care much for Cinderella, so the reading level of the older children should be highly sought. It is surprising how much a toddler can “stretch” to understand something his older siblings find interesting.

How children memorize

Young children tend to learn language patterns, rhythm, and rhymes by memorizing certain parts of stories or poems. Rhyming lines are a lot easier for a child to remember. They love to participate by reciting the part that they know. Even a two-year-old feels a sense of involvement if he can answer “Then I will huff and Puff” to the Little Pig or recite the Gingerbread Boy’s chant. Ask your child, for instance, “What did the boy cry out when he was bored watching over the sheep?” By letting your children experiment with different voices, you enhance their creativity. It helps them to learn to listen to the differences in tone and to infer meanings from them.

Desire or motivation is one of the most important factors in a child who’s learning to read. What greater motivation can a toddler have than to see his parents, the people he loves and admires most, read, and share books with him? This will encourage him to sit and read just because he wants to be like them.

The magic ingredient

The most asked question is – Should parents stop reading to their children once they begin to read in school? Absolutely not! Reading aloud together at home can help build your child’s vocabulary, improve their reading skills, and foster a sense of closeness between you and your child. You should encourage discussion about characters and share your reactions to books to help reinforce the connection between what you read and everyday life. Reading to your child introduces new books to them and helps broadens their interests. When children are familiar with good books, they tend to read above their usual reading level. This gives them a sense of accomplishment when the assigned material they read at their school might not.

Moreover, stories don’t always have to be read. Telling a familiar folk tale such as The Three Bears or reciting rhymes while dressing or feeding a toddler is fun. But a word of warning, please don’t try to read aloud a book that you dislike or find boring. Just as exuberance is contagious, so is indifference. It’s hard to fool children.

Parents’ Role

Parents need never be at a loss when it comes to choosing books for a family reading. Children should be made members of a library. They should be encouraged to visit the local library regularly. These visits could be to go through books for referencing for schoolwork or just for pleasure reading. There are other willing sources of help as well. Many bookstores and sites have lists of suggested books for all age levels.

Reminiscence experiences with family

Reading and discussing favorite stories can draw a family closer together. Good stories present realistic situations where decisions must be made, and consequences follow. Parents can learn something of their children’s attitudes and can teach their values while discussing how the story characters solve their problems.

How often do you and your family read? There is no specific answer to that question. I know of one family who felt that a daily family reading time was so important that they woke up early on Sundays to read together for 30 minutes before breakfast. The most important thing is to enjoy family reading. It shouldn’t be forced into your daily schedule. Sometimes you might want to take a break after reading a long book and wait until you find a book so good that you simply must read it together.

Reading together is one of the few free activities that a family can participate in. Instead of working and worrying to provide your children with material possessions that are soon broken and forgotten, try giving them more time and love. It is rightly said, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”

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