Toddlers can't read, so why do we bother with reading them books? The answer is simple: one day they will have to learn to read and if they like books, associate them with fun and good experiences, they will be more inclined to want to learn about letters and sounds and eventually reading.
Being able to read a book is a huge and marvelous gift. It opens the world up for little children and allows them to enjoy the fantastic stories that are available and help them learn at school. So, by reading to the toddlers and even babies, you're helping them for when they need to learn to read at school and indeed helping on their journey through school. Plus, even more important at this stage, introducing them to a wonderful world of stories and adventures!
So, what to do to make books fun! Here are a few tips:
One day your child will learn to read, and there's a lot that you can do to prepare them and make learning to read an easier task. Before children can read there are some fundamental principles that they must understand. They must be able to differentiate letters, words and numbers from pictures, they should be familiar with books and know that pages read from top left to bottom right and they should be able to identify each letter and know the sound that each one makes. Even with all this there is still a lot more to learn before they can read, but at least they are in good shape to learn more easily.
Teach your child letters from an early age, sing the ABC song so that they learn their alphabet, and have them recognise their name. Spot letters when you are out and about and play phonic games to help grow familiarity with the sounds of letters. Write labels for things around your home and put signs up for your child to be able to spot different words. Part of reading is about being able to read letters and make out a word, but many words have irregular letters and sounds and are more easily learned through recognition by exposure to them over time.
There's no doubt that reading encompasses a lot of different skills and knowledge, but being surrounded by letters and sounds, your child really will absorb the knowledge required to learn to read, and you'll find that they will learn to read more quickly than other children who weren't given this encouragement.
Research has found that the majority of parents read bedtime stories to children under the age of 5; bedtime reading is an important activity offering a number of benefits. We've talked about the importance of establishing a routine before, and stories just before bedtime signal that it's soon time to go to sleep. Stories also offer the oppportunity to wind down and relax, if the children have been jumping around whilst getting ready for bed, they can now calm down again as you sit in a cuddle and they listen to stories.
Stories offer the opportunity for youngsters to hear language and to begin to understand writing and reading. They are exposed to words and this forms an early foundation in the learning of language. Very recent research, however, found that for older children who can speak, conversing with them instead of just reading to them is six times more beneficial for them to learn language. As your children grow older, make sure you talk with them as well as to them, at the end of the day. Recap what you have done during the day, and if they are at nursery or spending other time away from you, ask them about what they did in that time.
Story time also gives you the opportunity to spend dedicated time with your babies. You probably spend most of your time with your children, but how much of it do you spend interacting with them directly rather than just pushing them in a buggy or being with them? The end of the day provides an opportunity to dedicate one on one time with each of your children as they snuggle down, hopefully for a good night's sleep!
Find some exciting new books at the library and go somewhere exciting to read them! Find a big, big tree in the park and sit underneath the branches. Or, find some books about ducks and head to the local duck pond. Organize a book festival in your local park with your friends. Invite a few other mom's, ask them to bring a book each, and take turns to read their book to the assembled kids. Once you've finished the stories, have the children act out one of them, have them all choose a character to play (and to avoid conflict, if two or more children choose the same character, just have two 'Mummy bears', or two Princes, it really won't matter to them if you sell the idea!).
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