Nurturing a Budding Bookworm
Books are definitely low-tech -- no flashy graphics, no chirpy soundtrack. (Sure, there are e-readers, but even they don't have quite the same electronic flash of their computerized brethren.) But books can still be great, educational entertainment for kids -- even busy, short-attention-span toddlers. Plus, the benefits of reading are undeniable: Kids who read and are read to expand their minds creatively, become better readers later in life, and tend to succeed more in school. How can you make sure reading becomes one of your kids' favorite things to do?
- Be a reader yourself. Do your kids see books, magazines, newspapers (or their electronic equivalents) getting read, by you, in your house? They'll notice. They might not realize they're noticing, but they will.
- Choose wisely. When you're reading to your children, select books that they'll enjoy and understand -- make sure they're appropriate for their ages and interest levels. Go too simple and they'll get bored; too advanced and they'll tune you out.
- Do it daily. Make reading part of your everyday routine with your kids, and shoot for at least 30 minutes. You don't have to read for 30 minutes at a time, though. A short book over breakfast, a story just before naptime, a few poems at bedtime...weave smaller bursts of reading throughout the day until it becomes a natural part of each day.
- Shut down screen time. When the TV, the tablet or the smartphone are on and connected, everyone is distracted (including you!). Shut off the electronics and play, talk, sing and read together without interruption.
- Talk, talk, talk. Talk about your kids' favorite stories with them. Explain things they don't quite get and find out what the stories mean to them. Ask open-ended questions (Who's your favorite character in this book? Which picture do you like the best?) to get things started. Talking about books with your kids will not only help them gather more meaning from the books you read together, but will help them build their vocabularies as well.
- Make reading time special. Settle in, cuddle together, and make reading a positive, "quality time" experience. Encourage your children to take part -- pause to talk about what's happening in the book, point out something in an illustration, have them turn the page. When reading time is a special time, your kids will look forward to it.