by Dr. Natalie Danner
Take a break. Turn off your screen and grab a book. Read for yourself or read with your child.
Did you know that reading your child a book, magazine, or newspaper in front of your child makes an impression on them? It does! Young children, even babies, who watch their family members read grow up to be great readers, too.
One thing you can do to help your child develop a love for reading is to have books available in your home. Go to the public library with your child and browse some books. Get what seems to interest your child as well as books that interest you. See some great options for very young children in our resource guide on page 3 of this newsletter. Once you check out the books (for free!) from a library, you can place several of them around your house at your child’s eye-level so your child can see the books and choose to explore them.
Over and Over Again
Infants and toddlers learn so much from being read to. Make it a routine to read to your child every day, if you can. Sometimes children may request their favorite book over and over again. This is a wonderful way for children to learn new words and gain vocabulary—just some of the skills needed for a reader. Sometimes children want to skip ahead a few pages or stay on a page longer. That’s okay! Follow your child’s lead and pace. You can even forget the words on the page and tell your own story. Make it up; make it fun!
Making the noises of the characters on the page helps engage young children. For example, if there is a bear in the story, you could lower your voice when you read the bear’s words and even growl a little, too: “Gggrrrrr!” It’s okay for adults to act and feel silly when reading; this can even reduce your stress. Little ones love to hear the noises of the animals! It makes the story come alive for them.
Do You See the Little Girl?
Simply talking together about the pictures on the page helps your child’s brain grow. Pointing to a picture helps very young children develop joint attention, when a child and an adult are looking at the same thing together. For example, you might say while pointing to the picture in the book, “Do you see that little girl? What is she doing?” Child: “Run.” You: “Yes, she is running! She is wearing a red coat.” This back and forth conversation is called “serve and return” language, which helps children develop cognitive skills. What is most important is that you are spending time together and having a good time.
So whenever you have a few minutes in the day, curl up with your child and enjoy a good book together. The benefits to your child, and you, are endless.
Originally written for the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse Newsletter: Fall 2020