Starting your baby's big reading adventure
Your baby is never to young to start enjoying books. Here's how you can help to build a foundation for reading in the future
Posted: 19 November 2012
It’s never too early to start reading stories with your child. In fact, you can start reading to your baby within weeks. It’s a lovely way of interacting with your baby and you’ll be surprise how quickly she starts to engage, looking at the pictures, trying to grab the pages, biting the corners… What you do in the years before your child start learning to read independently will lay the foundations for reading independently, so don't hold back on getting started!
When to start
“Reading with your baby encourages the progression of listening and commnication skills, both vital for their later reading development," says Stuart Wilkinson, Project Director at the National Literacy Trust. Between birth and the time they start school, children are in a stage of development called “emergent literacy.”
During this crucial time, your child will be learning the importance of text, through seeing letters and words on signs, on screens and in the environment. The key to books at this early stage is to make them fun. “The emphasis should always be on enjoyment,” says Wikinson.
As your baby grows into a toddler, continue reading as much as you can. Don’t limit storytelling time to bedtime only; bring pocket-size books with you on trips, or invest in some buggy books that can be attached to your pushchair so your child always has some reading matter to hand. And remember that conversation helps to develop language, which is vital to pre-readers, so try relating the story to familiar scenarios in your child’s everyday life.
Pre-reading tips and techniques
- Point at pictures and at things around you. Start with pointing at single words on a page. Say the word aloud, then point to the image. Encourage your toddler to try and say the word but don’t force her, and make sure you give her praise even if she hasn’t got the word quite right.
- Make noises and do the actions. Forgetting your inhibitions can be hugely beneficial for your child. Quacking like a duck, or mooing like a cow with your child will start to help them to understand that words have meanings.
- Read the same books over and over again. “Children learn from – and love – repetition and by reading the same book over and over again, they grow to recognise words,” says Rebecca Green from the National Literacy Trust. And whilst it might be a chore for you, who can resist your toddler excitedly pleads “Again, again!”
- Use props and puppets, or even dress-up outfits to liven up your storytelling sessions. Acting out a story is a great way of making stories and reading fun and helping your child remember particular words. Just try and say "Who's been eating my porridge?" without pretending to be Daddy Bear and you'll see how effective this is.
- Read lots of books. It might seem obvious, but the more books that you read, the bigger your child's vocabulary will become. And a bigger vocabulary will allow your child to recognise a greater variety of words when she starts reading. Check out our Junior Top 100 Children's Books Of All Time for some brilliant suggestions.
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