“By reading together, you build a bond with children and help them acquire a love of language that is critical for future success at school and in life,” says Shelley Shaughnessy, a Family Health Nurse with the HKPR District Health Unit.
As children grow, “their brains are like sponges,” she explains, which means they are constantly learning from what goes on around them.
Reading with children helps stimulate speech and language skills, as adults help them learn new words and discuss their meanings. Visual attention, conversation skills and listening ability are also improved.
“Take the cue from your child when reading,” Shaughnessy adds. “If children flip back and forth all over the book, be patient. It shows they enjoy the book and want to concentrate on the parts that especially appeal to them.
And if you show interest and enthusiasm when reading to children, the words on the page will have appeal and hold their attention.
Finding an age-appropriate book for a child is the most important step in encouraging reading:
• For older toddlers and preschoolers, books with repetitive and rhyming text, as well as plenty of pictures and interactive features like holes or flaps for lifting, can be a hit.
• For older children who are less inclined to read, choose a story with an exciting plot that will grab their attention and make them want to read.
• Try fictional “series,” or books on subjects that mirror their own lives, including non-fiction stories dealing with sports, for example.
Purchasing a gift certificate to a local bookstore for your child is another way to encourage reading. “Giving children the option to choose their own books can make it more likely they will pick up on the gift idea and read,” says Shaughnessy.
If children’s expectations this holiday season involve a high-tech gadget, parents might consider electronic book readers as an option. But a low-tech, no-cost idea may be a better fit.
Get your child a library card and open the door to a world of books, where new experiences await.
The District Preschool Speech and Language Program can offer local families more resources on how to support children’s speech and language skills, as well as encourage reading.
For more, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 and speak to a Family Health Nurse, or visit www.kidtalk.on.ca.