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A Storied Life

Reading tips for kids

As parents we all hope to give our children the best and prepare them for all that this world may bring. One way to give them a significant leg up is to give them the gift of literacy.

Literacy is the door to all knowledge. Once we learn to read, we are able to learn. Literacy begins with an environment rich in books, magazines, newspapers and filled with storytelling and communication. A great way to begin the literacy journey is to read aloud to children.

Reading aloud is about more than just learning to read; it is about making connections between parent and child. Reading to children creates an emotional bond like no other. This bond is an avenue to lifelong communication that can withstand the often-challenging stages of growth and development that children experience.

The act of reading aloud models language; it creates knowledge of the written word and the relationship between sound and print. Reading aloud introduces the patterns of language and provides an opportunity to stretch thinking skills by making predictions, discussing outcomes and identifying cause and effect. As education research shows, early literacy experiences improve student success in the classroom. And the best part – reading aloud is a gift every adult can afford to give!

Start Young

The gift of literacy begins at birth. Infants respond to many elements of the read-aloud experience: the human voice and its expressiveness, the touch, smell, and color of books and the attention that is part of the endeavor.  Start the reading habit early by reading aloud daily. Experiment, using different voices and creating different sounds with words.

Although children’s literature certainly provides many wonderful options, during infancy a child will respond to anything. Reading the grocery list aloud in the car with expression will captivate a child; even reading colorful ads from the newspaper will entertain.  Children also need to see and touch books. Be sure to include books that are childproof so that children may handle them.

Establish a Routine

Humans love routine.  We form habits simply by creating routines.  To instill the lifelong habit of reading, make it a priority each day. Each family must find a convenient time for reading each day. This may be snuggling and reading together just before bed or taking a few moments while dinner is cooking.  With younger children, it may be before nap time or the first activity after a nap.  It is also important for children to see the adults in their life reading. Create a time when the entire family reads – even though a child may not be an independent reader yet, he will happily “read” books with the rest of the family.  Modeling reading for pleasure and for information is vital.

Create a Space for Books

Books are appealing. They call you to worlds unknown; they are a source of information; they are friends waiting to happen. Books deserve a special place in a home. Work to create a home library. The library could be as small as a special crate with a place of honor in the family room or a closet transformed into a book nook. If possible, include cozy pillows, cushions or chairs that will accommodate at least one adult and one child. Fill the library with reading material – a variety of selections to meet the interests of the child.  Take advantage of the local library to keep the home library fresh and appealing.

Print Is Everywhere

Stop for a moment and think about the world we live in.  Print is everywhere! We are surrounded by words – street signs, billboards, grocery stores, the aisles at Target.  Parents may open this world to children simply by talking about what is seen, hunting for letters, finding words together or having children read signs at the grocery store.

Keep Reading Aloud

Reading aloud is timeless. No matter your child’s age, there is tremendous power in reading aloud together. As a child becomes a fluent reader, take turns reading aloud to each other. Reading aloud creates a bond between adult and child. It provides opportunities to share in adventures, predict outcomes and analyze characters. Continue to read aloud stories that may be too difficult for a child to read independently but will generate the opportunity for in-depth discussion.

Reading aloud is a gift that all parents can give. It provides an opportunity to bond and a routine that parents and children will enjoy. And best of all, it’s never too late to give this gift. Start today. It will make the world and your home a better place.

Judy Kent is director of admissions at Academy at the Lakes, a Prek3 – 12th grade independent school in the north Tampa area. For more information, visit Academy at the Lakes

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