If you are reading this, then you are most likely a person who is passionate about reading. You may be the kind who always has your nose in a book (or an Ebook reader like an IPad Kobo, Kindle etc). You may feel lonely when a book ends as you end a relationship with the characters in the story. Sometimes you my feel ‘ripped’ off when a story ends as there are many questions left unanswered, or you don’t like how it ended. You may be a regular visitor to blogs and read reviews on the types of books you want to read, or write blogs and reviews to assist other readers in their book choices. So passionate you are about reading! You’re probably an adult, or close to it. How then, do we ignite this same passion in our children, hoping that they too one day will have an interest and passion in reading? In a world where technology is constantly outdoing itself, how do we rise to this challenge?
As a mother and an educator of primary school aged children, this is a daily challenge I am faced with, both personally and professionally. When do we start reading with our children, and how do we go about it? How old is too old, or how young is too young? Is there a right or wrong age? My suggestion is……….well from day dot really.
We as adults hold the power as to when we expose our children to the print environment and the wonderful world of reading. The reading journey for many will begin while still in utero, and then more formally once born. I started reading formally to my child from approximately 6 weeks of age. Although the reading journey began early in utero, in the form of pregnancy and parenting books, and also by reading out aloud to other children in the classroom and engaging with them in reading activities. Early on in my teaching career I remember reading on a flyer the following words:
“READ, READ, READ to me, the more you read, the more I know, the more I know, the more I grow, so READ, READ, READ to me!”
These words have always stuck in my head and have proven to be so true, both in my professional and personal life. Children are like little sponges and they take in so much of what they hear and see through reading. Through my studies and experience I have found that the earlier a child is exposed to books and print rich environments, the more likely they are to succeed at reading and foster the love of reading for life. “For younger kids (younger than four), the process of reading is actually easier and more natural than for older kids. This is because the normal process of brain development creates a period known as ‘window of opportunity’ when language patterns are incorporated better into the neural circuits.”
Other benefits of early reading includes:
- Building strong relationships/bonds with parents.
- Helps to establish routines when done at regular, daily times.
- Increased confidence upon starting school/kindergarten.
- Develops oral language and comprehension skills.
- Enables children to make links to their personal lives/life experiences.
- Enhances concentration skills.
- Enables children to form opinions and make decisions when questioned about stories, and then transfer these experiences to every day life.
When I use the word read, I am not just referring to a child sitting with a book and reading it. Open up you mind. Henry Ward Beecher quotes “A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life”. Have a look into your own lives at home. How are you building the library and print rich environment for your own children and family? Have a think about the following possibilities to help build your own library. You do not have to have formal qualifications or be in a classroom to begin your reading journey. Below are some well tested strategies and ideas to get you on your way:
- Read to – where children have a story read to them by someone else, modeling the oral language and behaviours needed to be a great reader (even simple behaviours like turning pages, how to hold a book – you’d be surprised by the number of children I’ve taught over the years who begin school not knowing how to hold a book, which direction print reads in a book or which way to turn a page).
- Read together/shared reading – encouraging children to be an active participant in the reading experience (could be as simple as talking about the pictures, ending rhyming sentences, pointing to where a reader starts to read, tracking words with a finger, looking for beginning sounds in words, turning a page, talking about favourite characters or favourite authors.
- Child tells a story – reverse the roles and be the participant. Invite children to read to you – making up stories from pictures or from prior experiences. Think about including props like puppets, dolls etc.
- Allow your child to role play scenes from stories. Then when they re-read stories they have the experiences to use to help them comprehend events in the story. In this photo, the child is role playing Santa in his sleigh delivering presents.
- Make up your own stories – from life experiences (eg a trip to the zoo), take photos or draw pictures and write your own text to go with the story.
- Take photos of your child participating in activities like making pizza. Then print the photos and write a story about the experience. Ask your child what the story is about and write it in
their own words so they can then have success when reading it back to you.
- Model reading in all aspects – children learn a lot from seeing others read. Whether it be at kindergarten, day care, school. Library, or even mum, dad or grandpa/grandma reading a magazine or newspaper. These are very powerful images for children. Another popular quote I come across from time to time is “If you can read this, thank a teacher (anonymous)”. I challenge you to think about who are the ‘teachers’ in your children’s lives as they all have teachers well before their formal years of education.
- Read and re-read favourite books – children often comeback to their favourite stories or authors time and time again. This is normal, especially for early readers. Seeing familiar pictures and words gives a sense of security and encourages confidence in reading as children are able to achieve reading behaviours from the prior knowledge they store.
- Think outside the square – don’t think that reading has to be from a book. We live in such a print rich environment – think IPad IPod, IPhone apps, computers, tablets, Leapster games, newspapers, magazines, catalogues, signs, cards, flash cards, board games, puzzles, games like eye spy, puppets, dolls, interactive CD’s, e-books.
- Reading with CD’s and books are a great way for children to enjoy stories.
- Reading of nursery rhymes, repetitive songs, poetry, story CD’s etc – repetitive text is a great confidence booster for children.
- Try story time at the library – a great way for children to enjoy a print rich environment, have stories read to them by other people, and follow up with a special activity. Most libraries these days run these sessions on a weekly basis.
As adults and passionate readers we know the benefits of reading, whether it be for education, company, information, pleasure, or relaxing. There are so many fun and engaging ways to encourage children to read and foster their love of reading over the years, if you have ever doubted or questioned yourself as to how early is too early to start reading to a child, I encourage you to rethink and start reading from…….well day dot really!
Useful sites to help encourage early reading:
- Foundation For Early Learning
- Activities For Promoting Early Literacy (PDF)
- Lifelong Benefits of Early Reading Skills
Tully is a stay at home mum to her 3.5 year old son and a primary school teacher with over 10 years teaching experience. She has a special interest in Literacy and learning – particularly the early stages of reading. She recently completed her post-grad certificate in Literacy Intervention with intentions of completing further units to complete her Masters in Education. Tully is passionate about reading and is fortunate to be able to spend time sharing and encouraging this passion with her son.