Updated: Dec 27, 2018
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Let’s just get this out of the way. Reading is CRITICAL for your kiddo’s success in life! I mean, research shows that how well a 3rd grader reads is predictive of 8th grade and high school test scores as well as college enrollment… No pressure.
There are little shifts that you can make in your household and to your routine from the day you bring baby home from the hospital that will help create a blossoming reader!
A QUICK NOTE:
Grownups, listen, this is important. Reading is MORE than correctly saying the words that an author has written on the page… it is building an understanding about the meaning of the text. Actually, the most challenging part of reading is learning how to understand stories!
There are many ways you can infuse practicing reading and practicing understanding in your everyday routines!
1. Read Aloud EVERY NIGHT!
Create a reading routine. Choose a comfy spot - add pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, soft lighting, even quite music. Set up the same environment every night before bedtime. Make it a special, sacred time between your kiddos and you. (It doesn't have to be just night time! read together whenever you can!)
By the time your child is school age, teachers will begin asking that they read at least 20 minutes a night. Start small with infants and build up! It’s all about building stamina! By 4 or 5, you can start reading short and interesting chapter books together!
This extends into the time when your child CAN read independently because they can understand much more complicated and interesting stories than they can decode themselves.
2. Review Your Day!
This might seem a little strange, but it helps kiddos develop retelling skills! Spend some time during bath or bedtime reviewing what you did that day. This can start BEFORE your child is verbal, with a series of “remember when we …. Today. After that we…..”
PRO-TIP: Make the retelling juicer by adding an “ it made me feel… when that happened”
As your child gets older and more verbal, they will take over more of the retelling. Before then, you have the mic entirely or are asking prompting questions, like
“What happened this morning?… I had X to eat. Do you remember what you ate?”
Retelling is one of the foundational reading comprehension skills needed answer the many more challenging ‘why and how’ questions. Children must first remember details of the story before they can apply the details to answer their teacher’s tricky questions.
3. Play Pretend
Encourage pretend play. You can start modeling pretend play for older babies, starting around 9 or 10 months. (You can start at any time really but relax your expectations. Mimicking actions can start close to baby's first birthday or sometime thereafter.)
Keep play super simple - feeding a baby, stirring a pot etc. Play will get more interesting and independent after their first birthday and beyond.
This may seem unrelated to reading, but the more your child can imagine and visualize amazing scenes and stories in her head, the easier time she will have imagining, visualizing, and therefore understanding the stories she hears and, eventually, reads herself. ****
4. Keep Books Low And Always Available
We cannot say enough about the benefits of keeping books low to the ground so children can access them whenever they want! It also helps children choose their own books, which increases engagement in the book and interest in reading!
PRO Tip- keep books low and available throughout the house so that kiddos always have access if they’re interested. Wherever children play, they should have access to reading and writing materials without having to ask you for help!
5. Tell A Story
Make storytelling a part of your daily/weekly bedtime routines. Replace a book you would read with a story you make up! Model telling a story with a beginning (where you introduce a setting, characters and tell a little bit about them), a middle (where you explain the problem or conflict), and an end (where you resolve the problem). This will start with you at the steering wheel for a while. As your child becomes more verbal, s/he will be familiar with the routine and will take over more and more of the story creation! Oral storytelling is the first step to a great novel writer! This gets kiddos ready for the patterns in stories - which not only helps them as writers but also helps them make predictions and understand the stories they read.
PRO-TIP: We also love story dice for when kiddos are 4 and up!
6. Expand How You Define “Reading”
Like I said before we started, reading is more about the thinking that happens to build understanding of a text… not just about knowing what word c/a/t is. If you have a reluctant reader (or a squiggly baby, or squirmy toddler) stick to pictures - print them out, look at post cards, or look at the pictures on 1 or 2 pages in a book! Talking about the details in photographs and artwork builds reading skills JUST LIKE reading a book aloud does.
When doing this, to be the most effective use these tips:
1. Use grownup language! Don’t be afraid to use large words; it will just expand their vocabularies!
2. Talk about the details of the picture
3. Talk about the picture and meaning as a whole
4. Ask questions BEYOND “How Many” or “What Color”.
5. As questions like: “ Where do you think it’s going”, “How do you think she feels?” “Who uses that?”, “What do you think it smells like?”
PRO-TIP: Follow questions up with “Why?” Or “How do you know?”
Don’t worry questions are hard. We will write a blog post about this soon!
7. Love Reading, Yourself
Even if you don’t… fake it till you make it! Kids pick up on your mindset about tasks in seconds - an eye roll, mood change - they are very perceptive. If you want your kids to be excited about reading, you have to be excited about reading… even if you’re reading the little blue truck for the 10,000 time in a row.
Let them see you read. When you read a recipe, say " I love reading! It's so helpful!" Play it up here... drama is good! Let them see you read a book or a newspaper…. Actual paper - not on a tablet (save that for right before you go to bed or during their nap time).
Developing a positive mindset around reading is a huge part of the battle. Start winning early by being super excited to read every night!
Being a confident reader can change a kiddos life! Commit to little changes in your routine and household. Let us know how it goes in the comments!
***Note on pretend play before bed: Our family has pretend play as a part of our evening routine. At night, we have play time (usually max 5-7 minutes) after teeth brushing and PJ dressing but before we start our “bedtime” routine of books and storytelling. We do whatever play our son chooses and follow his lead completely. No offering, no prompting, no suggesting, no skill practicing, just engaging and participating in the play he chooses. If he chooses imaginary play, this is a great time to engage and model slightly more complex pretend play. If he wants to roll around on the floor the whole time… have at it! Because of this, do a lot of the pretend play time practice a different times of the day!
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