If you were to ask a random person on the street if reading to children is important, I would venture to guess that they would say yes. The benefits to this simple practice run the gamut from building a stronger relationship to building language skills and creating a foundation for academic success. There really is no denying that the time invested reading will provide a strong return.
With that said though, only about 52% of parents actually read to their children. This statistic helps explain the reason why so many American children enter kindergarten without basic literacy skills needed to begin learning how to read themselves. Preschoolers who do not have the foundation in place that reading provides are at the highest risk for reading below grade level.
OK, so what is stopping parents from reading to their children? It does not take much thought to come up with two possible reasons; parents are busy, and the television, computer or other device is a convenient alternative.
The Guardian reported that David Cameron, the Prime Minister, urged London parents to read to their children every night no matter how busy they are. The Prime Minister is very supportive of the Get London Reading campaign. In fact, Mr. Cameron said, "I try to read to my children a couple of nights a week. I think that however busy you are in life, you should always try to read to your children."
Starting young is of course ideal, but starting anywhere is necessary.
Consider the following tips on how to develop a new reading habit in your home.
Call a time out
Turning off electronics at least an hour before bedtime is a good start. Even if all you do initially is unplug, this can help transition into quiet reading time later.
When that habit is in place, you can ask your child to sit by you and tell you something about his day. While you have him there, introduce a fun picture book. A single story will not take more than five minutes but this practice will establish a healthy routine.
Offer a variety
The nice thing about books, is that there is so much variety. If you do not have a library card, get one. Gather picture books in different styles. See what draws your child in. My daughter has never liked talking animals, so we stay away from those books. Maybe they love rhyming or rhythmic books, maybe they respond best to reading the same story night after night.
Reading to your child gives you the opportunity to get to know your child better.
Read for fun
Focus on reading for the fun of it. You do not have to think about the academic benefits, quiz your child after a story or even make them practice new words in order to reap the rewards story time brings.
Stories can open up new worlds for children; you can share books full of facts, or fairy tale worlds -- the affect on their development is essentially the same.
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