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Why we should be reading with young children

Sharing books with your child – even when they are too young to read themselves – can be a lovely way to share a quiet moment together.  It can also be a routine way to help your child relax and settle down for a nap or sleep at the end of the day.

As well as the enjoyment you both get from spending this time together, you can also give your child a head start towards reading. Learning to read begins long before your child starts school.

Did you know that children are exposed to between 13 to 30 million words before they start school?

Research shows that the number of different words your child understands, is the biggest predictor of how well children can read by the end of grades two and three. Sitting down and reading books to your child exposes them to a much wider range of words than we might use in daily conversation.

Follow these simple steps to share books with your child and you can really help their future education.

Two babies on the floor playing with cloth books

Use books as a conversation

Try to think of a book as an opportunity for a conversation, where you explore the book or story and learn about each other’s thought and feelings.  Point out interesting parts of the illustration and wait for your child to point out something they find interesting. Ask your child if they have ever done something like the book character or felt the same way.

Remember that it’s okay to shorten a story or make up your own story about a book if that makes it easier for your child to stay interested.

Any time is a good time

Any time is a good time to read with your child. If you make it a routine such as before lunch or in bed at night, you are more likely to do it consistently. It is never too soon, or too late to begin sharing books with your child.

Pick books that are age appropriate

For young infants use cloth books that can be chewed (and washed). At around 12 months, with some help to guide their hand, you can move on to books which give children something to do, like to lift flaps or to feel textures in books. Introduce simple stories, with repetitive actions or words, like Dear Zoo.

At around three years old, children will be able to sit and attend for longer. They will like books with a story that has a problem and a solution like Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy or Rosie’s Walk.

A mother reads to her daughter on a picnic rug outside

Choose stories that are interesting to your child

Books about your child’s favourite interests will also help them to stay interested. Toddlers will be interested in stories that they can relate to, so ones which show children doing everyday things like going to the supermarket, or making a mess at home. Preschoolers may be ready to have their world expanded into events beyond the everyday. This might include books set in other countries or cultures, trips to the moon or pirates and magical fantasies.  You can also continue to encourage them to go deeper into their favourite subjects for example animals, the weather, or castles.

Use your local library

Reading can be free. Your local library is a great source of books for a wide range of ages and interests. Darebin Libraries have books in several community languages as well as free rhyme and story sessions.

Two young children sit at a library table reading foreign language books

Get books as presents

You can ask for books as gifts from family members for birthdays or other special occasions.

Make your own books

Children love to see pictures of themselves demonstrating new skills (‘I can swing‘) or having special experiences (‘today we went to the zoo with granny’). Making your own books is a fun and engaging activity for children that makes them think differently about reading.

Use hooks to help them learn

You can help build your child’s understanding of new and unfamiliar words by ‘hooking’ them onto words they already know. For example, if something says  “it was soaked” you could say ”soaked means very, very wet” or if an animal is “enormous” you can explain that it is ”very big”.

Shoot for the SSTARS can give you more ideas on how to develop your child’s vocabulary.

Take part in the National Simultaneous Storytime

On 23rd May 2018 at 11am take part in the national simultaneous reading hour! This is a fun way to join in with other and see how much fun reading can be. This year the book is Hickory Dickory Dash.

Join us at East Preston Community Centre, where Your Community Health Speech Pathologists will be demonstrating how to turn book reading into a conversation.

You can register here.

See you there!