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Take a Look…At a Book!
Tips for Promoting Early Literacy in Young Children
Young children who receive early and repeated exposure to books and reading will demonstrate gains in language and academic skills later in life. In addition, reading with your child can be a fun, bonding experience for both children and parents. The following are some suggestions to get the most out of reading time with your child.
- Where? Minimize distractions in the environment – turn off the TV and radio. Sit in a quiet environment away from other activities in the home. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy snuggling with your little one.
- When? Pick a time during the day when you are not rushed and can focus on your child. Ideally try to make reading part of your regular routine so that your child can anticipate reading, such as before bedtime and/or after dinner.
- How? Let your child interact with the book. Part of learning to read is learning how to hold onto the book, turn the pages, etc. For very young children, choose books that are able to stand up to teething, drool and rough play such as fabric or board books
- Pause. Pause during reading to allow your child to comment.
- Questions. Avoid asking “drill questions” such as asking for labels (“what’s this?”). Instead use commenting and open ended questions like “What do you see?”, “I wonder what will happen next” or “That dog is funny.”
- Animation! Be animated when you read. Using different voices and lots of intonation in your reading can help to engage children and hold their attention.
- Diverge. Feel free to diverge from the text. If your child is getting distracted or you feel that the text is too advanced, you can shorten it or re-tell the story in your own words at a level that is appropriate for your child.
- Translate. If you can’t find books in your first language, consider translating simple books into your own language. Translations do not need to be word for word but a simple retelling that fits with the pictures
- Repeat. Children love to hear their favourite stories over and over! The repetition helps them learn language and before long they will be able to join in reading the story. Consider pausing mid-stream and allow your child to “read” the end of the sentence. This works particularly well when the book contains a repeated word or phrase.
- Point. Point to print while you are reading. When the font or size changes, point to this while you read the words. Often books will use different or larger font for exciting or important words and children will enjoy looking and reading these.
- Position. Try to sit face to face when reading books. This way, your child will be able to see your facial expressions as you read different words. This will also allow you to see your child’s face as they see the pictures on the page. If you see that your child is particularly interested in a page, spend some extra time pointing out the details and talking about what makes that page fun and exciting.
Remember to be a reading model. Children will see you reading and it will help them recognize the importance of this skill in their lives. Reading books with your child should be fun! By following the tips above, you’re sure to make reading something that both you and your child look forward to every day.