Research proves that children who are read to are more likely to develop a deeper understanding of language, speech, literacy as well as social and emotional skills.
This is why, after the sale of Kip McGrath, REWA has focused its direction on building a culture of reading in our community. We aim to empower babies, children, youth and their parents and teachers with the multitude of wonders that stories provide.
Sharing a story with a child is more than just teaching new vocabulary, it builds knowledge about people, places and life situations. Stories have the power to stimulate development across multiple learning areas, foster the parent-child bond and capture imaginations. It is such a valuable tool to use with our children that doctors in America are asked to tell parents to read aloud to their infants from birth, under a recent policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
But reading to children, especially infants, can be challenging. Their attention span doesn’t last and you may feel that they have no idea what you’re saying. What if they turn a page before you’re done with it? It can be difficult and you may be tempted to just get on with it and finish the story.
Here are some tips on how to make it engaging and enjoyable for you and your child:
- Make it playful and bring in physical, social, sensory and imaginary elements.
Design activities based on the book that are challenging and age appropriate. You can do yoga postures that relate to animals from a story or imagine you’re a character and talk about what you would have done instead. Make a craft that represents a scene or character from the book or engage in fantasy play together.
Have fun with it! Read books that you enjoy reading too, be dramatic and change your voice for different characters. Make sounds, use facial expression and add props to enhance the effect. Be enthusiastic and willing to share the magic of whatever they have read. Allow them to explore other worlds (fantasy, historic or even real) through discussions over the dinner table. Ask them what if questions (e.g. What if you met a Gruffalo? What if you had magical powers you never knew about and were the one destined to kill the Dark Lord? What if you lived in Narnia? What if you walked into an enchanted wood?)
- Read with even the tiniest of tots.
As they grow, they will know what to expect. Reading from birth will develop attention spans and a love of books. It creates lifelong learners and communication skills. Many children above the age of 8 or 9 complain that they never get ‘read to’ anymore and they miss it. It actually inspires them to enjoy stories and through guided ‘book talk’, they begin to value the knowledge and experience they gain from shared stories.
- Keep it relevant as they grow.
Choose books about topics that your baby is interested in or based on themes that they can relate to. Animals, colours, nature, places you will visit – these are all ways to reinforce concepts that they are learning about elsewhere. As your children grow up, offer them a choice of books; everyone’s interests are different and they may not wish to read what you enjoyed when you were a kid. Choice means an investment – so if they have chosen the book, they are invested to read it.
- Rhyme, sing, repeat!
Books that have an element of rhyme, rhythm and repletion in them are usually the most popular with young children as they engage their senses on multiple levels. Little learners can pick up on sound patterns and are more likely to acquire early language skills through these patterns.
- Use board books, bath books, different textures etc.
Infants will want to experience the book on all levels, including chewing them, bathing with books and scribbling on them. Have a variety of books available for your children to bond with.
- Model good reading behaviour. If you sit in front of the telly all evening, they will too.
- Keep it short!
This one is particularly important for the 0-4 age group! Short picture books with great illustrations and just a few lines per page usually work best when starting out with babies. You can talk about the pictures that stood out most and encourage further discussion, creativity and elaboration on those images rather than reading a lengthy story.
- Make reading a treat…. If they do something well, they get 5 minutes extra reading time before they go to bed. Or if they do something naughty, they don’t get to read tonight and lights have to go off straight away! Subtle technique that subconsciously makes reading a valuable and pleasurable activity.
- Be up-to-date with children’s books so you can better recommend books for your child:
- Spend time together in a bookstore looking at what’s new and interesting.
- Find out what other kids are reading and why!
- Follow the REWA Facebook page for updates on Good Reads. https://www.facebook.com/raisingeducationwithinafrica
Children become more attentive and interested in stories as their understanding of the world grows; foster this understanding through music, play and engaging activities.
The adventures are endless, the skills learned are invaluable.
Some of my favourite childhood memories are based on books. Join the Baby in Wonderland classes at SensoBaby to create beautiful memories with your Babas or enroll your child with REWA Book Clubs.
Baby in Wonderland takes place every Tuesday. See our schedule here.
Book Clubs take place every Wednesday afternoon at Exclusive Books, Riverwalk.