Toddler Reading: How to Raise a Bookworm
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Did you know that only 45 percent of toddlers are read to on a daily basis? The National Center for Education Statistics points out that children under the poverty line are the most at risk; only 28 percent are read to regularly. While it might not sound like a big deal—after all, most toddlers can't even read—fostering a love of learning in early childhood could have a bearing on your child's reading ability later on in life.
If you understand the importance of raising a reader, you know that your efforts need to start now. But how do you justify the importance of reading against battling it out with a wiggly toddler who would rather play with his cars? Knowing how to interest your toddler in books and reading makes all the difference on the road to raising a child whole loves nothing more than to settle with a good book.
0-6 Months: Start Small
Your infant obviously isn't ready to start reading the complete works of Shakespeare, which is why you need to begin with short, colorful, interactive books. Melissa Lowry, education expert and founder of education consulting firm SmartyPantz Education, suggests picture books. "Use picture (without words) and early reader books to promote your child's language development," she urges. "Ask your child questions about the pictures, even if his response is one word or babbling. Encouraging your child to be active in the process will increase her interest, help him develop critical thinking skills and help him develop a strong vocabulary."
6-12 Months: Foster the Habit
You know all of those bedtime struggles you have? You know, where your baby won't go to sleep and makes sure you don't either? Books can be part of the solution. By making reading part of a soothing bedtime routine, you increase your baby's exposure to books while helping him to calm down before bed. Select books that have touch-and-feel pages and plenty of colors, but not electronic noises. By making reading a daily activity, it becomes a habit that your infant loves and looks forward to every day. The few minutes you get to sit down and read can become a relaxing ritual for both of you. Well, at least until the bedtime battle starts again.
12 to 18 Months: Make it Fun
It's time to test out your pipes when reading books aloud: kids love when you change your voice for the different characters. If your squirmy toddler can't sit still to get through a book, making the process more fun with hand gestures, different voices and facial expressions can help reel him back in. Early childhood education expert and pediatric psychologist, Kim Har, Ph.D., suggests getting involved with the reading process. "As children enter their toddler years, parents should point to and name pictures as well as each word as it is spoken aloud, so that children begin to expand their vocabulary and also grasp some of the beginning principals of reading such as directionality of text (left to right)." Don't be afraid to test out different voices as you get involved; you might feel a little silly, but your toddler probably thinks you're the best actor since Elmo.