I have a very busy two year old boy. One of the first ways he would actually sit in my lap for any longer than one hug took and sit still for any length of time was for me to read him a book. I don't know exactly when he started being a good "reader." I know it was before two, probably around eighteen months. I still remember his face (and still glimpse it occasionally) as he backed into my lap, sat down, and waited expectantly for the magic of the pages to unfurl.
Here are a few tips that make reading enjoyable and educational:
1. Pick books that are appealing to both of you. You might appreciate the style of the art, or the rhymes, or the humor. He might appreciate the subject matter or the animal sounds.
2. I love the simple stories and beautiful art of Eric Carle's books, specifically The Very Busy Spider (one of Kyle's current favorites) and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and the follow up Polar Bear. . . . What Do You Hear? which were Amanda's favorites years ago.
3. Speaking of animal sounds, books with sound effects and animals are big hits, guaranteed to hold their interest and teach them something new. How do you think so many toddlers know that a cow says moo and a dog says woof?
4. Ham it up! You might not be a classically trained actor, but here's a place where you can let it all hang out, so make sure you can moo with the best of them. The sound of a child laughing or the look of an enraptured smile is worth a little melodrama.
5. If you have trouble being silly, read some Sandra Boynton. Her verse is good and silly and kids love it (and it's a little sappy for us moms to enjoy, too). We especially like Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! and Pajama Time!
6. Change your definition of "reading." When we first started reading together, he was very interested in turning the pages. If the pages had more than a few words, I just didn't finish the sentence if he was trying to turn the page. That's okay. He has a longer attention span now, but if he is ready to turn the page, I usually turn it. He is getting to a point where he no longer wants to sit with me when he's in his room before nap. But he still wants me to read. So, I read to him while he plays with Little People, or goes through his other stacks of books. Other times during the day if he brings me a book, he actually sits still and follows along. So, instead of forgoing the reading time, because he's not doing it "right," I have adjusted it to fit his needs.
7. Take advantage of the new "sights" you come across in the books, instead of just reading the text. Take time to ask the child, "Where's the monkey?" "Which ball is red?" "How many flowers are there?"
8. Don't be afraid of repetition. You may not like it, but they do, and I think it's probably good for their little brains. We've been reading the same three books at naptime and bedtime for a week (with no waning interest yet). He can recite the phrase that repeats throughout the one of the books. That's language development right there. If you think that you are both ready for something new, put away the favorites out of sight for a little while.
9. Let the child finish the sentence, and even point to the words. She will learn that the words go along with the sounds. Some nice ABC books and 123 books, which are boring to me, and do not generally follow along my tip number 1, are great for teaching new words, and reminding them about letters and numbers. Once you've looked through them a few times together, these become great books for her to "read" alone by pointing to the picture and saying the word.
10. Build into your day times for reading aloud. I am guilty enough of delaying naptime or bedtime until the last moment. Then when he wants to read (more than one or two books), I balk. Even a reluctant reader will get used to this as part of routine. They may wise up to the fact that wanting to read delays bedtime, but that's okay if you move bedtime up a few minutes to allow for this.
11. Make sure books are always available. I'm a big fan of board books. They don't rip and the pages are easy to turn, so they become toys. There's a bin of books in his room, a basket in our study, in the car, and even in his bed.
12. Just say "yes." He will bring me books throughout the day. I often say no, but I am trying to say yes more often. I haven't clocked it, but I'm sure it doesn't take me more than three or four minutes to read one of his books.
13. Make a goal to read a certain number of books or minutes to your child each day. If you don't have a target, you are sure to miss it. I really believe that if they grow to enjoy books as toddlers and preschoolers, that they have a better chance of staying interested in reading as they grow up.
Along those lines, accountability and a little competition is always good for me to do what I know I should be doing anyway, so I'm thinking of hosting some sort of read aloud challenge. I missed Mother Reader's 48 hour reading and blogging challenge, but followed it on Jen Robinson's Book Page as she participated (you can read an article written about it here) but it's something I would have loved to try to do.
Does this sound interesting to anyone? I'm going to do it myself for sure, and report back. If others are interested, I'll write up some guidelines and set a timeframe (I'm thinking the first part of August for myself). Each person would need to commit to one day of reading aloud. We could log our time spent and blog about what kind of difference it made in our days.
And remember, reading aloud isn't just for pre-readers. If I can come up with 13 relevant things to say, I will focus on reading aloud with the older child next week.
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