Reading begins with families. But how can parents help children become strong readers? What can they do or say to help make reading a priority in their children's lives? GAE and its members offer the following tips:
Read to children early.
The ideal time to begin reading with children is during infancy. From as early as six weeks old, children should own books and be read to often. As infants become preschoolers, read to them every day and take them to storytelling hours or reading activities at the local library or children's center.
And often. Just when you think you can recite Green Eggs and Ham from memory, read it again. Favorite stories make reading a pleasure that children look forward to each day. As you read to your child, remember to read aloud with expression, move your finger from word to word, and draw the child's attention to the pictures. When children get older, take turns reading paragraphs or pages to each other.
Surround children with a reading-rich environment.
Parents can make every room in the house a reading zone with little effort. In the kitchen, put up alphabet refrigerator magnets. Around the living and dining rooms, post signs that use the child's name to help them learn to spell their name. And throughout the house, have lots of books and magazines available for children, including reading material with pictures for little ones who "read" by turning pages and looking at photos.
Monkey see, monkey do.
For children of all ages, it is critical that parents set a good example as a reader. Let your children see you reading every day, whether it is the newspaper, a magazine, or opening the mail. When reading is a part of your daily life, it tells children that reading is important.
Talk with the children in your family.
Our parents may have shooed us from the room when grown-ups were talking. But research today proves that talking to adults is children's best source of exposure to new vocabulary and ideas. Parents can start by reciting nursery rhymes and songs to their babies. As toddlers get older, their language skills will grow through engaging conversations with caring adults. Ask children what they did that day and encourage them to question you in return. Share stories with each other or discuss ideas and feelings. This will show your interest and provide an opportunity for children to express themselves.
Make reading a family affair.
Recruit an older brother or sister, or a grandparent, to read aloud with a child. Appeal to relatives and friends to give subscriptions to magazines, or books, as gifts. And encourage friends and family members who do not live close by to write to children, who always enjoy reading cards and letters they get in the mail - as well as notes they receive via e-mail.
Teaching children to read - and to enjoy reading - are crucial lessons that will last them a lifetime. That's why it's so important for those lessons to begin early in life and in the home.