Paula C. Papp
MA Ed from Baldwin Wallace College in Reading Instruction
Early Intervention Specialist
"No individual is too disabled to benefit from experiences with written language."
Karen A. Erickson
This is one of my favorite quotes, and a belief I have held for almost four decades of teaching. Over the next few months I will be offering ideas on how you can enrich and support language learning in your home.
I know I should be reading more to my child at home. How can I make it happen?
Here are eight tips:
1. Make reading with your child part of your daily routine.
Family life is busy, but finding time each day to share a book with your child is invaluable. Try to find a more relaxed time that you will not feel pressured or rushed. Chances are if you are feeling stressed about reading, your child will pick up on that.
2. Find a special spot, but be willing to go with those teachable moments.
Having a designated "spot" will help your child embrace the routine and understand that it is book time! Also, if your child settles into that "spot," he or she may be telling you that they would like to read with you. On the other hand, sometimes a moment presents itself, and you need to go with it. If your child is having a meltdown, it could be a good time to read, "When Sophie Gets Really Really Angry." What better time to read a book about trucks than when your son is on the floor playing with his favorite dump truck?
3. Turn them off--the TV, the computer etc.
Many children have difficulty with auditory and visual attending. They may not be able to focus on the book and your voice, while filtering out all the other things to look at and listen to. Help your child out by quieting the environment as best you can.
4. Start short and sweet if need be, and go from there.
Researchers in early literacy suggest reading with preschoolers and early elementary aged children at least twenty minutes a day. You need to start where your child is--which may be twenty seconds! Reading should be something you both enjoy, so gradually increase your expectations as your child settles into the routine. Singing the "ABC Song" can be used as the signal that book time with daddy is over.
5. Spice it up in different ways once your routine is established.
Have another person join in and take turns reading a page. Get a flashlight to read by and turn off all the lights, or huddle under a blanket. How about reading in a whisper voice, or a squeaky mouse voice?
6. Keep your child's books in the same place so they have access to them.
Having a few books readily available gives your child the opportunity to experience them on his or her own, or to communicate to you that he or she would like to read with you. Be mindful about the books that are accessible, and how many. If you are upset by ripped up pages or fifty books dumped on the floor, then books are not as much fun as we want them to be.
7. Provide opportunities for your child to make choices.
Throughout every daily routine it is important to provide your child with choices. Who does your child want to read with today? What two books (from this group of three to five) does your child want to read? Which book does your child want to read first? Does your child want to hold the book, or who is going to turn the pages etc.?
8. Trust in that old saying, "Monkey see, monkey do!"
If your child sees you reading, and enjoying it, they are more likely to want to pick up a book. Children can learn the different reasons why we read by observing you. So, enjoy a book or magazine, read over that recipe, follow the directions on how to put that shelving unit together--and hope that monkey of yours is watching!
You are your child's first and best teacher. I can't say that enough. The home literacy environment you create is critical to your child's learning. Keep it fun, be responsive to your child, and if you miss a day--there is always tomorrow!
Happy reading, Paula