by Joee Stephan
You may be asking yourself what difference could reading possibly make to my baby? After all, she surely cannot understand the story line, has no patience for page turning and pretty much just wants to chew on the book!
And reading to your toddler? Forget it! All he wants to do is skip to the fire truck picture! He won't even let you read to him!
Your all-knowing preschooler is willing to sit still, but she won't even let you get a word in edgewise when it comes to reading. She is going to tell this story herself!
These are just a few examples of frustrating antics that can cause a parent to feel they are failing to teach their child love for reading. Breathe easy mom and dad, this is exactly the behavior you want your child to exhibit!
It was once believed that to teach a small child love of reading you should teach them as you would an adult. It was advised that you read every page, run your finger underneath the words as you go along and restrict the child from over-touching the book.
New studies are changing this way of thinking (thankfully) and are opening up the immense potential to child-led education. It is now believed that a child will learn early literacy not only from word association and other respected methods, but from actual manipulation of the book itself! Exploring and respecting the physical attributes of the book are as important as learning the letters within.
Here are some common and healthy reading behaviors and tips:
Chewing and eating:
Babies especially will immediately bring the book (and everything else within reach) to their mouths. The oral exploration offers more information to an infant than their hands will. He is not trying to eat the item but rather discovering its size and texture. Offer books that can withstand a little drool and a few teeth marks, such as plastic "bath" books or thick board books. Show him what the book does by turning pages and then allow him to try on his own. Encourage him to turn it over and around in his little hands and of course, let him have a bite or two!
Turning and tearing:
As soon as he discovers he can turn that page by himself, reading together gets a little more entertaining. This is a great opportunity to teach your child gentle treatment of the pages, while encouraging them to be part of the story telling. It is normal for him to skip pages, turn back rather than forward, or even turning to just one page over and over again. Remember that at this young age the order the story is told in is much less important than the act of discovering it together.
Repeat, repeat, repeat:
Toddlers are notorious for finding something they love and refusing to try anything new. Just like with mealtime it is easy to feel frustrated when they bring the same book to read every single time. While you may not want to read that story again, he is looking forward to the characters, colors and pictures he has come to know. He will be more excited at the anticipation of seeing something he knows will be there, rather than a surprise. Encourage new books often, but do not worry if you have to read that same book one (hundred) more time/s.
A picture is worth EVERYTHING:
A book does not need the written word in order to teach. Pictures are not only easier for your little one to understand but allow you, the parent, to encourage participation and imagination. Ask your child to tell you what she thinks is happening in the pictures. Allow her to turn the pages and make her own story as she goes along. For the younger children this is perfect for teaching the basics such as colors and shapes. Bring their hands to the picture and help them trace the outline, explaining what it is as you go. This opens up all senses and intrigues their little minds!