Reading at any age promotes healthy brain development. From the first sounds babies make and hear, their brains are working hard to grow language skills, which are the building blocks of reading.
With summer in full swing, and many typical summer time activities cancelled, parents may be looking for ways to keep kids busy—and learning. Incorporating reading into your summer routine, no matter how old your child is, will help accomplish that.
Don’t get nervous at the thought of reading Shakespeare to your two-year old! There’s so much more to reading than sitting in a chair and turning pages. Here are some tips by age:
Learning how to read begins with learning how to speak. Simply hearing the rhythm and patterns of language is a powerful tool.
Babies love voices, especially the voices they heard in utero. Snuggle them close and sing lullabies or folk songs.
Use everyday activities like diapering, feeding, and bathing to “self-talk” to your baby. Coo and smile and explain what you’re doing. When your baby gurgles and coos back, respond with smiles and encouragement.
As your baby rolls over or starts to play with toys more actively, give your child the words to what they are doing. “You are pushing up with those strong arms!”
Choose brightly-colored books and let your child touch and hold cloth or cardboard books.
Point out the familiar objects on the pages and name them.
Choose books with rhyme.
Vary your voice from high to low while reading or singing. Make noises for what is going on in the story.
Ask your child simple questions and explain what is happening around them. This helps build their vocabulary and their understanding of the world—which can lead to future success in reading.
Lots of children are squirmy and need something in their little hands to keep them busy while you read. Giving them a piece of play-doh, for example, can make a big difference.
Interactive books where they have to find something on a page can keep kids entertained while you read.
As you walk down the street and your child stops to gather rocks, ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. “Which rocks look the same?”
Use “what if” questions. “What if a robin landed on your shoulder?” Questions like these are creative and fun and children can build them into stories.
Be patient with never-ending “why?” questions. They can be an opportunity to say, “I don’t know! Let’s go look it up!” Show your child that you don’t know all the answers and that reading can be useful.
Choose books that have repetition and rhyme. Children love to join in and pretend to read with you. Pause before a phrase or word is repeated and encourage your child to fill in the pause. Smile and nod when they do!
Spell and sound out familiar words out loud when you read. “Look at the word ‘sun’. S-U-N.” Make the sounds as you spell.
In the early elementary grades, your child will learn how to read. In the later grades, they will learn to read independently about a wide variety of topics.
Allow kids to choose their books. Your child has different tastes in reading than you. Allowing them to choose gives them the power to explore their own interests.
Try different types of books like poetry, graphic novels, joke books, weird facts books, gross science books, world record books, cookbooks, or even wordless books. Keep an open mind and remember that reading comes in many different forms.
Listen to audible books or storytelling podcasts. Pause to ask questions and make your own connections to the story.
Continue to read aloud to your child. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Showing them that even you make mistakes is a great way to encourage them to take risks in their reading.
While you read aloud, your little one will interrupt with questions. That’s okay! Answer them and don’t worry about breaking the flow of the story. Have them make predictions about what will happen next.
Librarians are an incredible resource! They can help direct you if your child has a particular interest in something, or they can track down that one book that will engage your child.
If you think your child has trouble reading, don’t’ be afraid to advocate! Call your child’s school district and talk to them about your concerns. You’re the one who knows your child the best.
Reading is a complex activity. Children need lots of encouragement and patience. This just means it’s time to get creative—and summer is the perfect time! And remember—if your child sees you reading, they’ll want to read too.