When toddlers and preschoolers are read to on a regular basis and exposed to books throughout their day, they are more likely to develop a lifelong love of reading. “The best laptop a child is ever going to have is yours,” said Francie Alexander, chief academic officer at Scholastic. “Reading with your child gives them a positive emotional connection to books and is the perfect first start to reading.”
“When you read to your toddler or preschooler, he picks up new vocabulary and develops early literacy skills that we adults take for granted: turning the pages, differentiating between print and pictures, reading from left to right,” said Crystal Pratt, reading specialist.
Read throughout the day
While many parents read to their child before bed, also try to read to them at other times throughout the day. After you change your toddler’s diaper or your preschooler finishes a meal, take a few minutes to read a book together. You can also read to your child while he is playing in the bathtub.
Elina Furman Landauer, mom of 22-month old Julian and founder of mamaista.com, likes to read to her son during meals. She has found that he is a captive audience and more interested in the book if he is sitting in his highchair.
Keep books within easy reach
In addition to bookcases in your child’s room and the playroom, put books in baskets around the house. Keep a small basket of books in the kitchen so that your child can look at them while you are preparing dinner. “Think of your entire house as a library for your child and look for ways to include books throughout,” said Alexander. Keep books in other rooms where your child spends time, such as your bedroom, bathroom or the living room. Be sure to keep books in the car for him to look at while you are driving. Stash a few books in your diaper bag so that you can read to your child when you are stuck in a long line at the grocery story or in the pediatrician’s waiting room.
How to choose the right books
When you are picking books, look for books that appeal to all of her five senses. Alexander recommends books with bright colors and big images, rhymes or songs and textures that your child can touch in the books.
“Pick books with characters that your child can recognize and relate to their experiences,” said Alexander. Cliffordand Curious George are favorites with this age because the children see them in many books and the characters often experience situations that your child faces. “These stories can help your child feel that they are not alone,” said Alexander. When she encounters a situation similar to one that she read about, relate her experience back to the book and talk about how the character in the book handled it.
Invest in a magazine subscription
Since most young child love to get mail, order a magazine subscription for your child. Some favorites for toddlers and preschoolers include Wild Baby Animal, Babybug, Highlights High Five and National Geographic for Little Kids. Look for magazines small in size with sturdy pages so your child can easily hold the magazine. The fact that the magazine is specifically for them and came in the mail entices children. Magazines are also an inexpensive way to add new reading material to your house on a regular basis.
Make your own books
Make a book using one of the many online photo services, such as www.snapfish.com, where your child is the main character. You can use digital photos of your child and also create a storyline to the book about him. Lisa Ridge Kritz, director of Erna and Julius Hertz Nursery School, suggests that parents make the books based on a theme that interests their child such as “our town”, “our family” or “our trip to the zoo.” Your child will love having a “real” book with his picture, and it is sure to become a family keepsake.