While some people worry that printed books are going the way of the dinosaur as popularity of digital devices climbs, many parents and educators also wonder whether kids will value reading at all in comparison to using their smartphones, computers and tablets.
Although those devices provide more platforms on which to read, research shows fewer kids read for the fun of it; to many of them, reading is a chore they must do for school.
How to change that? Some educators think that, in an age with so many digital options, one old-fashioned reading practice remains vitally important to child development—parents reading aloud to their children.
“The benefits of parents reading to children don’t just stop at helping children become successful readers,” says Christine Kyriakakos Martin, an early education expert and author of You’ve Got This! Keys To Effective Parenting For The Early Years. “When adults engage and bond with children through stories, they not only foster their child’s interest in books, spark their curiosity and prompt their imagination, but they help increase language and literacy skills, which builds their child’s self-esteem.“
A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that parents reading aloud to their children helped enhance the youngster’s social-emotional development and made them less likely to develop aggressive behavior. In an earlier study, researchers discovered that reading aloud increased brain activity.
Martin says there are several ways to maximize the time spent reading aloud to your child:
Read one children’s book a day.
Taking time to read aloud to your child each day entails one book per day. “At least one book per day produces immeasurable results in your child’s life and creates amazing memories for them,” Martin says. “If your child is resisting reading during the day, try right before bedtime so there won’t be the option of picking a different activity.”
Use supplemental activities.
“To enhance your child’s interest in curling up with a good story, inject some supplemental activities into your reading experiences to make them more interactive,” Martin says. “Make it fun. You can use puppets or stuffed animals to act out the story. Another way is reading books with repetitive phrases and encouraging your child to recite the phrases with you. Find out your child’s interests and go to the library to find books on that particular topic.”
Focus on how they remember details.
Extending your reading experiences through activities and supplemental activities can help children remember specific details and prompt their thinking. Pay attention to what they tell you. Ask them questions about the book after you read to them, and see how they interpret the story.
Introduce new words.
Focus on a couple of words each day from the story and teach your children what the words mean and how they are used in a sentence. “Sound it out for them, then have them repeat it,” Martin says. “Repetition equals learning, but again, making it fun inspires more learning. So let them draw a picture of what the word means, or have them act out the definition if possible.”
Have them anticipate.
What will happen next in the story? “Engaging your child in that thought process can expand their mind and keep them interested,” Martin says. “Take the opportunity to ask them what might happen next before you turn the page and resume reading.”
“When adults engage with children through stories and get excited reading with them,” Martin says, “they are communicating very important messages.”
Christine Kyriakakos Martin (www.youvegotthisparenting.com) is the author of You’ve Got This! Keys To Effective Parenting For The Early Years. An early education expert and consultant, Martin is the founder and owner of Sunshine Preschool in Hopkinton, Mass. She has spoken on child-development topics at national education conventions and colleges.