Toddlers learn best though play, according to Roni Leiderman, associate dean of the Family Center at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and a bunch of other child development buffs. It therefore makes sense to suppose that if we make reading a joyous, fun event, our tots will learn to love books.
The team from Babycenter.com have put together a manual of ‘how to raise a reader’; here are ten top tips (adapted and summarised) on how you can help your little ones learn to love stories:
- Story time is bonding time – for toddlers, reading is all about the cuddles; the interaction with mum and dad. Use books to bond and little ones will learn to associate reading with love and comfort.
- Routine is key – regular reading time (before bed, after school, before lunch, in the bath) establishes a calming routine that small children will love.
- Repetition – toddlers love it; it drives parents nuts but the reason little ones want the same story thirty nights in a row is because they’re thirsty to learn, which is a good thing!
- Expression – lose your inhibitions when you read; toddlers love accents and noses – the more animated you are the more they’ll love the story.
- Minimise screen time – it’s a passive exercise and it’s better for children to be doing something more engaging, like reading or playing with other children, or even playing on their own; this will stimulate their imaginations.
- Follow interests and ‘favourites’ – it’s important to expose your toddler to a wide variety of books but if there’s something that they’re particularly interested in, they’ll live books that exploit their interest.
- Don’t make reading a reward – reading should be a staple, not something associated with punishment.
- Make storytelling a part of life – stories aren’t just about books; they’re about drawings, photos and memories. Toddlers will learn to love narrative through the art of storytelling in all of its forms.
- Talk – converse with your child; this will teach them words and make them aware of concepts and ideas that they will also come across in stories. Don’t be afraid to use complex words either!
- Lead by example – let toddlers see how much you love books they’ll learn that books are a part of everyday life, and they will model their behaviour on yours.
Reading is a brilliant, exciting thing! It’s intriguing, stimulating and offers a sense of escapism when life is hard – and even when it’s not. Our children need to love it. They need to.
For more tips on how to nurture a love for reading in your children, read “How to raise a reader” by Mary Van Clay on Babycenter.com.