Reading to children critical to their development

By Chelsey Byers/University of Illinois Extension

This month, I would like to feature an article, "Encourage Your Children to Read," from my fellow family life educator, Cara Allen.

She stresses the benefits of reading to a child and shares some great suggestions of how to engage with the child while reading books. Please read on.

The best way for parents to help their children become good readers is to read to them, beginning shortly after a child is born. No, I'm not crazy; I know babies aren't going to understand the poem or story.

They will, however, enjoy hearing their parent's voice. Also, using a soft, soothing, sing-song voice can help calm an infant and get them ready for sleep. Or, in child development geek speak: help change their state of arousal. If you start a pattern of reading before an infant falls asleep, you have established a beautiful night-night ritual that helps kids with nap time and bedtime as they get older. I still prefer to read before going to sleep, and I left childhood behind a long time ago.

Toddlers can enjoy simple word and rhyming books, and preschoolers like books that have short stories. If you don't have the exact perfect book for your child's age range, it doesn't matter. Read only some of the sentences on the page for toddlers, for example, or make up a sentence about the picture on the page. "Oh, look, the bunny spilled his milk."

For a preschooler, you could read the story itself or ask him what is going on in the picture. Then if he says, "Bunny spilled his milk," you could add a follow-up question such as "Who will clean up the milk?"

The point is to spend some time with your child with a book as the focus of the activity. This way, your child will learn that reading is important and fun.

To make the most of your reading experience with your children, here are a few tips:

— If you like to read, let your child see you reading. If you don't like to read, be enthusiastic when reading with your child. Just fake it.

— Give children time to look at the picture, ask them to look for items in the pictures and discuss the pictures. "Where is the doggie?" "What is the doggie doing?"

— Continually reread favorite books. Children will begin to recognize words when they see them over and over again. Help with this by using a finger underneath words so children can connect the print with the word.

— Encourage children to read along when phrases are repeated in a book like "Goodnight Moon."

As you can see, parents can do a lot to prepare their child to read. Being able to read well will give your child an advantage in school and life.

With the holidays just a few months away, this is a great time to think about books that could make a great holiday gift for children of any age. A great gift idea from a grandparent is a recordable book where you actually record yourself reading the book.

This can especially be nice for grandparents who live at a distance.

For more information on this topic or other family life-related topics, contact Chelsey Byers at the University of Illinois Extension office, 801 N. Country Fair Drive, C. She may also be reached at 333-7672 or at clbyers@illinois.edu.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (1):Books

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