Within my few years working as an Early Childhood teacher, I have come to understand that being literate goes beyond a child’s ability to cram the alphabet and recite 2/3 or 4 letter words.
Literacy rather is about communication, the ability to understand, and to be able to express one’s self using the right words.
Before your child begins to read the alphabet or do all the recitations done in school, it is important that they are exposed to a world of pictures, letters, and imaginations already. This will help stir up their creative juices.
This brings us to the idea of books.
How can they help?
Books have pictures, letters, objects, bright colors in them. So when a child has access to books, the child already begins to prepare his mind for the real world out there.
A popular saying goes thus: Books will take you to places you may never physically go to.
Your child does not necessarily need to go around the world to know what happens around the world. Before your child gets to visit the zoo, the aquarium, and all the exciting places, with books, those life experiences are brought to him/her right in their hands.
And of course if there’s the means to go around the world, by all means, do indulge them.
Now imagine a child who is already exposed to learning about the world through a book just in front of him, there will be a natural curiosity for learning in that child to know more.
With reading comes a natural love for learning.
How then do you develop this culture/lifestyle of reading in your child?
This is necessary because the reality is that not every child loves the sight of literal books. Not every child will feel at home in a room of books. No doubt, children have different ways they learn, but you want to ensure that it’s not because they did not have access to books that caused the disinterest in reading.
- 1. MAKE THE BOOKS AVAILABLE.
How can you tell if your child will be a book lover, will love reading or not, when there’s not even a single children’s book in the house for them?
I don’t mean their school books, this time. I don’t mean the Mastering English and Math. I don’t mean the Numbers and Letters books they use in school. I mean regular children picture storybooks that are not labeled for academic use.
Invest in books for them. Look out for children stores and get some. This is the first start!
- 2. LET HIM GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE BOOKS FIRST.
You don’t have to compulsorily start reading to your child immediately you get the books. Neither must you force the child to start reading immediately. It shouldn’t be a case of ‘Alright, you’ve had enough play go’an pick your books and read NOW!’
There’s the temptation to do this tho’.
This doesn’t also mean that you hide the books far away from the child’s reach. No please
By getting comfortable with the books, let the books be a part of his play things (if it’s a younger child). Let him just enjoy flipping through the pages, mouthing, or just feeling the pages.
As a preschooler, allow him look through the pictures if that’s all he wants to do first.
Babies (0-12month olds) should be allowed to mouth the books. After all most of what they do now is mouthing anyways. Place the book alongside other play things like rattles, a teddy, and let him just get real familiar with books from a tender age. Babies’ books are made from fabric like textures. They are also board books too. So if the child mouths them, there’s no possibility of tearing. Only ensure the books are wiped clean occasionally.
- 3. CREATE A BOOK NOOK AT HOME
Carve out a section of the house that’ll serve as a book corner so in her mind she knows where to find the books whenever she needs them.
Please this should be a place where her hands can easily reach not somewhere hidden. This is why board books (books with thick hard pages that are almost impossible to get torn) are more advisable for young children so there’s no fear of them being ripped apart.
Alternate the books in the book corner. Bring out some and have them arranged there for easy access. After some time, say 2weeks or 1 month, swap the books, take those ones back in and bring out another set. This will help to create a new level of interest as new books are introduced.
- 4. READ READ READ
Read to your child. Read anytime. On some days, you can lay a cloth on the floor, ask your child to go make his/her book choice and you read to him.
On some nights before bedtime, you can do some reading too.
When you’re on a trip too, have a book in the car and let your child pretend to read, picture read, or actually read (depending on their age).
Now, don’t expect your child to cooperate all the time. You should go on with the reading whether or not they seem to be actively listening because trust me, they’re actually listening anyways.
By age 3, the child’s brain is 80% fully developed and is as active as an adult’s so no time to underestimate your child. As you do this often, he’ll come around, stay with you some seconds and run off again. With time, he’ll get to stay longer and with time again, he’ll even go fetch the books all by himself and begin to pretend read.
Just read anytime and anywhere and if you can’t do the reading, let them have their books handy with them all the time. This will help your child get used to books.
- 5. FINALLY, MAKE GAMES FROM THE BOOKS
For instance, If your child is learning to identify objects at the time, you point to objects in the book, say their names repeatedly, and ask her to say them. The same can be adopted when learning the colors and shapes.
If the child is learning to blend 2 or 3 letter words, you can say, ‘look for any 3 letter words you see in this book.’
Make this fun, applaud excitedly when this is done, jump around if you have the energy (and you better create that energy). It should not seem like a chore.
In summary, developing a reading culture in your child means that you start early. And starting early means as early as 0 month, yup from birth! Starting early makes it easier to establish a routine, and it makes it pretty sustainable.
If you have an older child, you can still start. Get books in line with their interests, cars, ballerinas, animals, dinosaurs, outer space, etc. Whatever their natural interests are, get books in that line. When you do that, they’ll be more inclined to want to open the books and by doing so, they gradually love the idea of books!
Your child can have a reading habit. It’s all up to you, PARENT!