Updated: Nov 8, 2019
It's book week where I live, in schools children are dressing up as their favourite characters and the costumes are great! Some home made, some bought and added to , everyone gorgeous. And the delight in the wee ones eyes when they get to become the person or thing , who has lived in their heads and imagination is so special. With the age of technology upon our wee and weest ones, it's so wonderful to see them engage in stories, reveal in plot twists and dive into books.
We have to start this life long love affair right from an early age. Be it plastic bath books they can flick through and chew on, cloth books with vivid colours on them that squeak, books that have flaps that open to reveal pictures underneath and my wee ones favourite right now, books that have textures and sounds. If you're happy and you know it gets pushed on repeat till its out of batteries. Thats not my series is dog eared and defluffed from being stroked over and over. But I would not change a thing. Reading to your children and getting them eventually to read to themselves, if not just flip the pages over is such a vital tool for learning and bonding.
Cognitively , the repetitive rhythm of your voice, the reoccurring pictures and colours on the pages, opens up pathways in an infants brain and enables memory to connect picture and sound to form language. They learn colours, shapes, alphabet, numbers. Then they find a love of something..... Cars, dinosaurs, animals, fairy tales or nursery rhymes and they are off on a the start of genres that they will always return to over and over.... And over and over.... Finding this key is so important for self starting reading too. Children can find it hard to learn to read sometimes, it does always click naturally and they feel pressure and fight or flight mode kicks in and getting them to read can be a chore. But finding the 'thing ' they love, will spur them on to picking up the book and wanting to know what it says. Mine was supernatural stuff, my nephew was fantasy books. We both were slow readers and once we found the genre we were off and lost in new worlds. Once you could not get us to read and now it's a wonderful escape and craved for.
Reading aloud to your child, as said starts from a young young age. Even if they don't focus at the beginning , having access to books, and opportunities to get stuck in is always a good thing. Not only do you need to repeat the process every time you read something to them , but repeat the opportunities to read till it clicks. My wee one at 14 months is only now getting interested. I have always offered to read to her but we make it a few pages and she's away. Now she's bringing me books and backing up in to my lap. Others have wee ones who have found the joy of reading much earlier and love a good book session.
Best to have a wee shelf where they are stacked, allows them to pick them up and look, if not sit and read them . I have found if you sit down and read one yourself, curiosity will over come them and they will want to do what you are. Always have age appropriate books on hand beg, steal, buy them or borrow them from libraries. Ones with just pictures or flaps to entice interaction from your child. Moving up to funny ones and short stories. There is nothing better than a bed time story even if you have read it a hundred times. Im looking forward to diving back in to the stories I was read, as my parents kept the few favourites and they have been handed down to me, for her. I cant wait to read a chapter of Harry Potter to her each night. Laugh and cry with Charlottes Web again and find her pleading for just a wee bit more or quickly turning off light because she's reading when supposed to be sleeping.
Reading stimulates imagination and creative play. Encourages art and drawing, who and what they see in their heads. Making stories of their own with their friends or toys. It is the basis not only for the spoken language and reading but of course writing stories of their own. This leads to spelling and grammar ( I said above I was a slow reader hence my spelling and grammar is poor ) and an understanding of the world around them. Reading can help them to recognise words they know from you reading from a page. I covered a wee ones house as a nanny with words that were laminated. Toaster , cup , drawer etc. Putting the item and the word shape together helped her to get her head around sounding out. But knowing how to recognise the words toilet when out is nothing but handy !
Remember to read yourself, if you are always looking at a screen then they will want to ( although you can now have unlimited access to books on screen , it's not ideal) Them seeing you with a thick novel in your hands will encourage them to emulate. When I was trying to get my school age kids to read, we have a timer on for half an hour. I would sit and read with them quietly. Who doesn't want a forced sit down ... in a good book.... Got them reading ! It's a wonderful skill to have, for them to actively seek out a pile of books and quietly sit in a comfy spot to entertain themselves for a half hour in their own heads. Long travel journeys can be filled with activities in book ( if they can read in the car, I get motion sickness so I never could) Stories can be played through individual headphones for car journeys or listened to, to fall asleep at night.
All of this stems from you introducing a love of pictures, words, stories and reading whenever you can, from what ever age you can. There is nothing like a good book , right from an early age. Lets all get stuck in and taken away..