by Lindsay W. Brown
August 5, 2010
“And to think this baby ‘quacking’ at a cardboard book became a system architect for a major corporation,” marvels Barbara Bushnell. She had just told me how she started reading books to her son before he could speak or even sit up by himself. His first words were “Da-da, book.”
Barbara knew that reading to her infant son would help him develop skills for reading, writing, listening and speaking. She continues to be an advocate for early learning by volunteering on Learning Link’s early childhood education team. This week the team is featuring another of the most basic skills children need to be successful young readers: My child enjoys age-appropriate books.
First, what does ‘age-appropriate’ mean? Parents or caregivers can ask themselves these questions:
- Does my child have the attention span to complete this book with me?
- Am I showing my child a wide variety of colorful picture books, photograph books, books that make noise or unfolding pages of surprise?
- Does this book present opportunities for my child to respond?
From the time you bring your child home from the hospital, start talking and singing to your baby. Hearing your voice is the first step to becoming a young reader because it helps her love language and learn words.
Now imagine sitting your baby in your lap and reading a book to her for the first time. How different from just talking! Now you’re showing her pictures! You’ve just taken the next step beyond talking. You’re showing her that words and pictures connect. And you’ve started her on her way to enjoying books.
Continue singing and talking to your child as she grows older. Ask her about the things she does. Let her know you are listening carefully. Getting your child to use words gives her practice and encourages her to think as she speaks.
Other tips for parents and caregivers for ensuring your child enjoys age-appropriate books:
- Choose a quiet time for reading aloud. Before you put your child to bed is a good time; it gives him a chance to rest between play and sleep. Let your child be a part of choosing those times.
- If you can, read with him in your lap or snuggled next to you so he feels close and safe. If he gets tired or restless, stop. Make reading aloud a quiet and comfortable time that your child looks forward to.
- If your child gets excited about airplanes, trains and cars, choose books about those things.
- From the earliest days, talk with your child about what you are reading. Now and then, stop and point to letters and words as you read them; then point to the pictures they stand for. When your child is ready, ask him to do the same.
- Read slowly and stop now and then to think aloud about what you’ve read. Ask “what do you think will happen next?” or “why did the boy do that?”
- By the time your child is 4 years old, follow the words with your finger to help him understand that the printed words have meaning; by age 5, most children will know that the printed words go from left to right.
- While you may get tired of reading the same book over and over again, that’s just what your child wants and needs, if that’s what he’s asking.
Most of all, make sure reading stays fun for both of you. If your child enjoys climbing into your lap to listen to a favorite book or story, you’ve succeeded. Chances are your child will also succeed, in school and in life.
For more information about Learning Link, an initiative of the DeKalb County Community Foundation, or a four-page booklet of low- and no-cost learning resources available in DeKalb County, go to www.dekalblearninglink.org and click on ‘Community and Parent Resources’, then ‘Early Childhood’, or call Judy Sorg at the DeKalb County Community Foundation, 260-925-0311.