All my baby does is eat the book, we’ll start reading when she’s older.
My son tears every book he’s given. He’s just not ready to read.
Every time we sit down to read, my toddler gets up and plays with her trucks.
These are many of the conversations I have had with parents when we talk about reading. Babies drool on books, toddlers write all over them, or my infant can’t really understand what I’m reading so why bother?
One of the biggest predictors of school success is the size of vocabulary a child has by age three. Reading, singing and playing every day for at least 20 minutes provide the foundation for learning a child needs for the rest of her life.
We all want that kodak moment reading time together, and like much of parenting that isn’t real life.
Don’t wait to build a reading routine
The first way I gauge the reading life of a child when I work with them is by giving them a book and seeing how they hold it. Children who have been read to, even at young ages like two, will recognize if the book is upside down or backwards. A child who hasn’t been read to often, will flip the pages upside down or backwards through the book.
A child isn’t born knowing how to hold a book
From birth, we can read to our child. It doesn’t even matter what we read, all the baby cares about is hearing our voices. Yet, a lot happens in the infants brain when we read together. Synapses and neural pathways are created for the sounds heard. The patterns and pictures on the page stimulate their brains and engage their visual centers. Older infants will even coo and babble in response to what we read. Our children, through our modeling have learned to hold and turn pages in a book. A developmental milestone at this stage is reaching for the book, putting it in his mouth, and even using it to bang around. Hey, these books don’t come with instruction manuals! All those signs point to a child engaging with the book, that must be where “devouring books” comes from.
Use those fingers for more than holding the book
While you read, be sure to point out the words on the page, or the pictures that accompany the words. Name what you see, not just what is in the text. All of that helps the child connect the letters on the page with the pictures. They won’t be able to read a book yet, but they know those squiggles and lines mean something! As they develop, you will soon see them mimicking you by pointing at the words as they “read” the book. A great sign that all that quality time worked.
They aren’t going through adolescence at 18 months, they hear you
Toddlers love to boogie. They love to run and move and drive us up the wall with all that activity. There are days where they sit on your lap for stories and are soon zooming around the room playing trucks.
Most days, it is fine to call a time-out on the reading and pick it back up when all their sillies are out. Other days, you’ll stop reading and even though they are on the ground playing with their doll, your son might look up and ask, “Why’d you stop?”
Kids listen, even when they aren’t looking. How many times have we discovered that when we say a word we shouldn’t have and they repeat it? Pay attention to their cues and decide whether to postpone or continue reading on. I promise you, it won’t be like reading to a wall.
My daughter’s a genius, she’s reading all by herself at 4
While that is most certainly true, I’d hold off calling Mensa just yet. Children who have been read to have favorite books and they want those books to be read to them again and again and again
In fact, just when you are about to hide the copy of Llama Llama Red Pajama, they will switch gears and Skippyjohn Jones will be their new favorite.
The great thing about all those repeat readings? They learn the story. Sure, they can’t actually read the words, but they know how the story starts, the problem in the middle and how the story ends. All skills they will be grateful for when they are in highschool and have to write a paper about the theme of Bartleby the Scrivener.
You should congratulate yourself when you get to this point. You have stuck to the reading routine even when you thought you couldn’t tell Marvin K Mooney to go home one more time.
You have not reached the read aloud end
Your child has been reading Fly Guy on repeat all by herself. He devours any book you give him, and that no longer means he literally eats the pages. Your child is an independent reader. Now you can sit back, relax and read your TBR pile that is about to collapse on top of you.
DON’T. STOP. READING. ALOUD
Kids at any age will receive the benefits of reading aloud. For elementary age kids, it will be fun to trade reading back and forth. For your sully teenager, it will give you a chance to talk without a scowl, eyeroll, or scoff. Keep reading. It builds relationship, maintains relationship, and reminds you of all the hard work you’ve accomplished for the past decade.
For More Information on Literacy Milestones
How much do you enjoy the reading time together? Then read even more.
Dr. Needleman, Co-Founder Reach Out and Read