A recently released guide from the Center for Public Education underscores the importance of reading to your toddlers and preschoolers. According to the guide, children of those age groups develop fundamental skills that will help them create the foundation for reading. "As toddlers and preschoolers, children develop oral language skills and cultivate what is known as print awareness or print concepts—that is, they come to understand the nature and purpose of print and recognize the unique properties of the alphabet or writing system they are learning about. ... The young child's awareness then builds to a greater understanding of text, such as learning to look at or 'read' printed words from left to right," the guide says.
So, where to begin?
Whether your child is ready to sit still for the entirety of The Cat in the Hat or just a few pages, just read what he or she can handle. If that means two pages now and three later, so be it. Every little bit of reading helps. And as they grow, these early moments of reading will help pique their interests to listen to longer, more complex stories.
Just because you loved princess stories, doesn't mean your daughter will. Take that into consideration when you are choosing books. It's okay to read about trucks to your little girl or Strawberry Shortcake to your little boy if that is what they are interested in hearing. The point is to get them reading, not shape their interests.
As your child's interest in reading grows, so will the number of questions about the book that they ask. Don't get impatient with these. Reading comprehension is an essential skill for readers of all levels. Encourage this interest by answering, and asking back. You never know what you might hear in your discussion.
You are bound to meet with resistance from your toddler or preschooler. Whether it's an unwillingness to sit still for a book, a disinterest in being read to, or a need to talk throughout the reading session, it's okay. Just keep trying to read. Your patience will make it a better experience, and one that eventually your child will enjoy and look forward to.
Even when your child isn't so into it, be enthusiastic about reading. Enthusiasm is contagious, after all. And if you get excited about reading a good night book, your child will soon get excited too. (And here's a hint, start the bedtime ritual routine while your child is still in a crib so that they have to sit there for the whole book.)
Sounds like a lot of work and trouble for something that your child might not be interested in right away. Is it really worth the effort? Experts and parents agree that the answer is yes.
Mother of two Cate O'Malley, who is senior content editor for The Voice of Mom, is a big supporter of reading to children from an early age. "One of the favorite activities that my son and I share is reading together, and it all started when he was a baby. From board books to regular weekly trips to the library when he was a preschooler, it all fostered his love for the written word. Now that he's a first grader and learning to read himself, he delights in reading to his baby sister at bedtime and picking out stories for here," O'Malley said.
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