Raising your child to be a reader is probably one of the best things you can do for them. Reading helps grow your child’s imagination, increases their readiness for school, boosts their vocabulary and improves their concentration and memory.
I am a big reader and always have been. I was lucky in that my mother is also a reader and read to me from a very young age. As I got older she would buy me books regularly and bring me to the library. My imagination and vocabulary were constantly growing. I was reading books far beyond my age range. At 10 years old, I read my first adult novel and loved it.
By the time I was 12 I was reading primarily adult fiction and borrowing books from my mother’s library. Having grown out of all Enid Blyton’s novels, I began getting into Maeve Binchy, then broadening my horizons to Stephen King.
I knew when I had my son, I knew I wanted to instil this love of reading into him, just as my mother did for me. By the time Caelum was a year old he had an exceptionally large book collection for a baby. I read to him for as long as his short attention span would allow.
But now, at three-and-a-half, he loves books! We go to the library multiple times a week. He has a bigger book collection than I have; he reads books in bed to himself every night and is also constantly reading to his younger brother, Riley. Riley is just 8 months old so it will be a while before he is as interested in books as we are, but he will get there eventually (I hope)!
So here are my top tips on raising your child to be a reader:
Start reading to them as babies – read to them whenever you get a spare few minutes. Read to them even if you think they can’t understand you, or even just show them the pictures in the book and try to get it to hold and explore it themselves. Picture books are great for babies. Even though they have no words, it is still a book and allowing them to explore the book for themselves is a great start to developing their interest in books and reading.
Routine – Make a routine out of reading. Read to them at certain times of the day, every day. A good time to do that would be bed time. They will then expect to read at that time every day and you will notice they will ask you to read to them and they will be ready to sit down and listen to you. This will ensure you have their full attention.
Be a good example –You need to show them how much you enjoy reading yourself and how fun it is so make sure your child spots you with a book in your hand every now and then. Children learn a lot by copying. Surrounding your child with books from a young age will make it seem like a normal part of life and they will become naturally curious and interested.
Make it fun – One of the biggest things that got my son into reading was the library. I have been bringing him there since he was a baby just to have a play but since he started pre-school it has become a ritual to go to the library every day after school. He enjoys picking out new books, going up the librarian and checking his books out himself. It makes him feel very grown up. He loves all the librarians, they all know him by name now that he goes so often which is another fun part of the library experience for him.
Rhyming books – Rhyming books are a great way to engage your child in reading as they will remember it better. My son’s favourite book is Goodnight Moon because it rhymes. We have read it together countless times that he now can read it himself from memory.
Engaging their interest - Set up a little bookshelf in their room and have them fill it themselves. They can then choose from their own library what they would like to read. If they are old enough, question them on the book to try and engage their interest and make it enjoyable. Do sounds and voices for different characters or animals in the book. Another thing I have begun to do recently with my 3 year old is put my finger under each word as I read and he has started to question what each word says, so he is now grasping some knowledge of language and vocabulary.
Right now, all these tips have worked for me and my son Caelum, but I don’t know how it will work with Riley - he could hate books! These tips are only a guide and won’t suit everyone, but I think it is definitely worth a try. Reading is such a brilliant past-time for a child to have.