I knew before my children were born that I would read to them every night – hey, I’m a bookworm! But when my eldest was born, I wasn’t sure when to start. I was caught up in the whirl of having a newborn. Then when he was three months old I decided to read Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit to him while hanging out in a hotel room. The smile on his face as he listened to my voice was priceless. We have read together every night since.
My youngest son has had the pleasure of books from the day he was born – feeding or sleeping on my lap while I read to his brother. As a result, they both love books and they both have very strong language skills and huge imaginations.
Here are some tips on sharing books with children – to help develop their language skills, encourage a love of books, and have fun together.
- Read together every day. Recent studies show that there are huge benefits to daily reading sessions, even with older children. Before bedtime is great but won’t work if your child is too tired.
- Repeat stories as many times as your child wants them (so buy books you’ll like too). Just because they’ve heard a story doesn’t mean they can’t here it again (and again… and again… and again…) This helps them internalise the language and develop a deeper understanding of the story
- Make it fun – vary your speed, intonation and volume but always read each book the same way so as to be predictable. Accents are fun if you can manage them.
- Discuss the illustrations – how they correlate with the text (or not!), the expressions on the characters’ faces, compare illustration styles between authors and between different books by the same illustrator. Ask your child leading questions rather than give your opinion – for example, “What do you think this person is feeling? Do they look happy, angry or sad?”
- Pause at the end of rhyming sentences to let your child finish rhymes, even in books they haven’t heard before. Children as young as one to two memorise stories very quickly and can finish sentences, especially predictable rhymes. This is a great way for them to get a feel for rhyme.
- Read a variety of books – rhyming, prose, silly, serious, fiction, non-fiction. They don’t always need a moral, read for the beauty of it.
- Let your child choose what they want to read, but if they’re unsure, a good habit is to choose one new book, one current favourite, and one classic. When buying or borrowing books, choose a range of classics and newer books, as well as local and international authors.