reading, toddler development, toddler books, reading aloud, education

Reading is one of the most important skills we can teach our children.  It sets the foundations for a child’s ability to succeed in school and later on in life.  It is never too early to start reading aloud to your child – even while your baby is still in the womb it’s learning to recognise your voice and once your baby is just a few months old they will begin focusing their eyes on patterns and colours on the pages.

As your child grows so do their skills and abilities.  Reading aloud to your child gives them an opportunity to develop listening skills, it enhances concentration, and it improves their vocabulary and memory retention.  All of the above are invaluable and crucial for children when they start school.

Reading aloud to your child brings you closer together and helps to improve the communication between you and your child.  When you finish reading a book quite often other issues, thoughts or feelings arise opening the door for discussions.  The discussions you have will ultimately lead them to expand their understanding of the world they live in.

Reading aloud to your child also helps to stimulate imaginative play.  When a child watches television they don’t need to use their imagination – everything is happening right in front of them but when we read a book and look at pictures the child needs to use their imagination to determine some elements of what is happening in the story.

Certain situations including the loss of a loved one, potty training or divorce can be extremely confusing for children.  A story that explains the position your child is in can be a great aid in making these situations slightly easier to understand.  If your child is struggling with a stressful situation or major milestone consider finding a book that relates to that milestone to read to your child.

So now that we understand how important reading aloud to our children is, the next question might be how do we make it fun and engaging?  Here are some tips to help keep your little ones from wandering too far during story time:

  • Create a unique space especially for reading. Set up a ‘cuddle corner’ with pillows or cushions on a rug, in a tepee or underneath some hanging paper lanterns. It should to be somewhere your children feel comfortable and cosy.
  • Don’t be shy. Vary your voice for different characters, be loud or whisper and use appropriate sound effects to bring the story to life.
  • Buy or rent books that you know will interest your child. For example if your child loves dinosaurs then select books that feature dinosaurs in them.
  • Let your children choose the book. Your children are more likely to be interested in the story if they have chosen it from the shelf themselves. Don’t be worried if you’re reading the same book time and time again – the fact that you are reading at all is the most important thing.
  • Select books with colourful illustrations or touch and feel textures. Toddlers are stimulated by sight and touch, so select books where your child can pull or push tabs, feel different textures or be excited by the pictures.
  • Board books are great for toddlers because they’re easy for them to hold and they can learn to turn the pages without ripping them to shreds.

Reading to your child shouldn’t be a chore – it should be fun, a time to bond and an activity that you never deny your child from doing.  The next time your child picks up a book and asks you to read it consider this quote from Dr Seuss:

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Image via betterparenting.com

By Karyn Miller