One thing I knew before having my son, and not because I am a teacher, because it is drummed into us, was that I needed to read to the baby. “Read to the baby everyday.” I heard it so often! I don’t know if it is the company I keep or did everyone else hear this too? The truth is, it is actually really important and the more early exposure your child gets the greater impact it will have on things like language acquisition, reading comprehension and imagination. The benefits of good early reading behaviours will be reaped for the rest of their lives!
All this wonderful stuff being said, is it actually as simple as opening a book and reading everyday? I found reading to my son as a baby so much easier. I’d grab a book before bed and his little wormy body would just lay and look at the book, toddler life is a smidge different! I have come up with a few tips for making daily reading a bit more ‘do-able’.
The R word - Routine.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard how important ROUTINE is! And look, they’re all right, once you actually manage to put one in place it can be heavenly. Our book routine started out pretty low key and was easy to implement. From the day we brought our son home a book was read before bedtime. That has since changed and reading has now become apart of our day during various stages of play. Once you decide on a good time for you and your family be it bedtime, on the fly or during lunch, set it in place and make it part and parcel of the day. Until it becomes a habit, like brushing your teeth! Your child will likely be reminding you to grab a book before you know it!
As I mentioned above, reading is now a part of our play throughout the day and this comes in two ways
1. Led by me (totally optional)
I have books that are rotated and kept on a display shelf that I might choose to introduce something new with or simply because it’s a new book. These books need guidance and modeling to be read. These also happen to be the books that might produce tears if a page is ‘accidentally’ ripped or drawn on!
2. Led by my son (most recommended).
So here is where a little bit of prep work needs to happen. I suggest setting up a shelf or tub where your child can see the books all the time. Best case, even see the front covers. The books in this space need to be familiar to them. As in you’ve read through them a few times, you’ve talked about the characters, the setting, what is happening etc. This is important as your child is more likely to choose a text independently if it is known to them and familiar.
You don’t actually have to read! Whhhaaat?
My next tip has been inspired by The Online Speechie. She suggests that it is not imperative to read word for word with every book. And we all know that’s sometimes that’s a big ask with toddler sized attention spans. But to simply read the pictures. When teaching reading this is used as a strategy to help children uncover unknown words and even uncover hidden meanings within the text. So by doing this you are extracting all that great juicy conversational language as well as clueing your child in to the story that is happening within the story via the pictures.
Change it up.
Books don’t always have to be traditional flip the page books. There are plenty of reading materials out there. Everyday texts such as magazines, catalogues and posters. Your child will not be able to read the text, it may be far beyond them but leading a conversation around the text and letting them know this too is something we read is in itself another great lesson. The images on these texts are great and technically is still reading! Try adding some of those to your bookshelves. Digital versions are also a great way to mix things up. Plenty of books are available online accompanied by animations or some visual elements. One of our favorite ways to mix it up is to watch a read aloud of various titles on Storybox Library, this also gives me a break from being chief storyteller!
We recently purchased a small play tent and set it up as a ‘book hut’ this has changed the state of our reading and play dramatically. It has encouraged a lot more independent play and independent time spent picking and reading books. It doesn’t have to be super fancy it can be simply some cushions thrown on the floor or a tablecloth down for a book picnic. Small little invitations to sit and read a book can go a long way with reluctant readers.
Create & Discuss.
Discussing what you have read once the book is packed away is another great way to continue to familiarise your child to the book but also extend their understanding of the story. In school we often ask students to recreate a scene or character from their book to consolidate their understanding of what has happened in the text. Hand in Hand Activity Kits have plenty of crafts that could align with a huge variety of characters and scenes from books you read with your little ones. Some of the kits even come with a matching book! Having another opportunity to revisit the book in conversation and play helps to engage the child in the book even further.
I hope you find these tips handy and that they make a difference to reading with your little ones! They are just a few things that I have done during my teaching career and some of what has worked at home since becoming a Mum! Literacy is a passion of mine, I was the lead literacy teacher at my school before going on Maternity Leave and really loved working alongside teachers and students in finding the best teaching practice. Please let me know what you’ve tried! Or if you have any questions feel free to contact me on Instagram!