by Mark M. Bello
“The more that you read, the more you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go…”
– Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss books are allegorical children’s stories with uniquely creative and inviting use of language. Generations of children have discovered the allure of books while reading through works like The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. Their brains were exposed to the cadence and rhyme that has proven to be important in the development of literacy; children often learn by exposure.
The benefits from the early development of language skills are endless – enhanced vocabulary, improved grammar and elevated writing style. The spoken and written word are the building blocks of life. That is why raising a child who loves to read is one of the biggest gifts you can give.
So, how do you teach literary enjoyment? Here are some strategies parents can use right from the start.
Read aloud to your child.
The single most important thing you can do to develop a love for reading and to prepare your child for school is to read to them every day. Even a newborn understands more than you think. Pick books that will interactively engage your baby, i.e. texture, sound, and pop-up books. Reading to children also exposes them to new vocabulary. Even if they don’t understand every word, they will absorb something from the context. As your child gets older, reading and discussing what is read helps build a foundation for school success and how they approach many real-life situations.
Combine activities with the books you read.
Read with your child, not just to your child. Making a game or activity out of the books you read together is not only fun, but also a way to encourage the love of reading. For example, use unique voices for each character, act out a scene, or hold a puppet show. If you are reading about animals, take a trip to the zoo. If you are reading about the planets, visit the planetarium. Such activities not only increase the imagination, but also help children understand the book better.
Encourage your child to read and let them choose.
Children develop at different stages, so it is important to let them take the lead when it comes to reading. While it is important to recommend books you think your child will like, do not force your child to read any book. Children will read more often if they enjoy what they are reading. There are enough books children are required to read in school.
Keep a variety of books in the house.
Developing a love of books is about having them accessible. This helps children view books as part of daily life. It is also important to make reading a special time together and set a routine. Maybe it is right after dinner or before going to bed.
Challenge your child’s reading skills.
The best way for your child to remain engaged while receiving a cognitive benefit is to select books just beyond their current reading level, thus giving them a manageable challenge. This will also help develop the reading skills that they’ll need throughout their school years and adult life.
Visit the library.
Visiting the library gives children a chance to browse a variety of books. Talk about particular topics of interest to your child. While you may encourage one science-related book and one “fun” book, let your child choose which books to check out.
Set a good example.
Parents are the best examples for good reading habits as children love to imitate the actions of their parents. It doesn’t matter if you choose to read a novel, magazine, newspaper or cookbook. When children see their parents reading for enjoyment, it is likely they will too.
Though the internet has created new means and opportunities to read, its prevalence in everyday life can also serve as a distraction. While reading and critical thinking skills are necessary to effectively utilize the web, don’t let the internet consume all your child’s free time.
While reading is a vital skill for children to master, as well as an important source of knowledge that can last a lifetime, in the end, it is important to remember not to let the mechanics of reading get in the way of creating a love of reading.