I came across a quote recently that struck me. Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams said, “Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills required for learning to read.” It’s not a surprise that reading to children is such a critical element to their development, but it can be difficult to find time and energy for reading, especially when children are impatient or reluctant readers. Here are some tips for building reading into your family’s routine and encouraging imagination and storytelling.
- Set aside a specific block of time each day for reading. This can be a time that you read aloud to your child, or if you child is older, you can read separately alongside each other. Reading before bedtime can be a great way for everyone to relax before going to sleep but working in reading at any part of the day that works for your family is just as effective.
- Make books readily available. Store books on a low bookshelf or basket so that children can easily reach them without help. Let your children choose the books that you read with them, encouraging all types of books and genres, both fiction and non-fiction.
- Read anywhere and everywhere. As I child, I was told to always bring a book with me wherever I go – you never know when you are going to be bored. Carry a few smaller, sturdy books with you in a purse or diaper bag and encourage older children to bring a book on car rides or errands. This constant availability makes it easy to turn to a book rather than a phone or tablet.
- It doesn’t always have to be a book. Stories can take a variety of forms, all stimulating to the imagination. If reading in the car isn’t feasible, audiobooks and podcasts are a great way to listen to stories or learn something new, whether alone or with your family. “Wow in the World, Story Pirates”, and “The Past and the Curious” are all great family-friendly podcasts for your next commute or road trip. Also, just because it’s on a screen doesn’t mean it can’t help build reading comprehension skills. Movies help children be able to follow a storyline and empathize with characters just as they would with a book.
- Connect stories with your children’s experiences and interests. Are you taking a trip to a new city or National Park? Choose a story or non-fiction book that takes place in this new place. Is your child suddenly interested in insects or racecars or dragons? A book featuring these elements is a great way to get your child excited about reading. Additionally, utilize books to help explain tough issues that may be difficult to talk about with your kids.
- Make reading an event. Whether it is library visits, storytimes, a trip to the movies, or seeing a play, hearing stories in a new context can be an exciting family adventure. Don’t forget that playing is reading as well. Encourage your child to narrate what their toys are doing or have them tell you what is going on in their drawings – you’ll easily be able to see the parallels between active play and storytelling.
- Make books interactive. While many children’s books are passive, there are a myriad of options for books that encourage action and participation. “Press Here” by Hervé Tullet, “High Five” by Adam Rubin, and “There’s a Monster in Your Book” by Tom Fletcher all direct readers to physically manipulate the book in their hands, bringing a tactile element to the reading experience. “Monster Boogie” by Laurie Berkner and “Octopus’ Garden” by Ringo Starr add music and dance to the adorable stories that they tell.