Reading independently is undeniably a critical academic skill, but a child’s ability to read also affects their entire life — beyond academics. Of the adults at the lowest level of literacy proficiency, 43% live in poverty, while only 4% of adults with strong literacy skills live in poverty. Students who read frequently are higher achievers than students who read rarely.
Access to books at home helps children to go further in school — and in life. And when children decide to read independently, they become better readers and even score higher on achievement tests across all subject areas.
So how do you help your preschooler love reading so that she reaps the many lifelong benefits?
1. Get Familiar with Books
Read books to your baby. In the beginning, your baby will notice the pictures. Then, he’ll learn how to turn the pages. Soon, he’ll understand that the story is the same every time you read it. These are all pre-reading skills that can develop simply from reading and spending time with books from a young age.
2. Don’t Push It
At a young age, pre-reading skills are more important to literacy than being an early reader. Don’t push your child to learn to read. Certainly point out letters and discuss the sounds they make. And if your child is interested, follow her lead and help her learn how to sound out words. But follow the cue of your preschooler. If she would rather hear you read her favorite book than try and sound out The Cat in the Hat, go with that.
Let your preschooler love reading — in all forms, including looking at the book and being read to — so she will continue to naturally develop reading skills.
3. Location, Location, Location
Setting up cozy or fun reading nooks makes reading both enjoyable and special. This could be as simple as pulling out a cozy blanket to snuggle with on the couch, or it could be as detailed as designing and decorating a reading corner with fashionable furniture.
Throw a blanket over a few chairs and read together in your makeshift fort. Pick a theme (teddy bear picnic, beach day, snow day) and throw a few props together for an instantly-fun reading corner.
4. Read TO Your Child
When your child is young, it’s obvious that she’ll need you to read to her. But remember to keep reading to your child as she grows up. Reading can be taxing and tiring for emergent readers. When you read to your child, you take the pressure off and let your child experience the joy and pleasure of getting lost in a story.
5. Go to the Library
There’s magic in a library. Just ask a children’s librarian. Let your child discover this special magic by making regular trips to the library. Go to story times and craft afternoons. Attend special events and participate in raffles and summer reading programs. Hold your child’s hand and walk up and down the bookshelves looking for covers that jump out at you. Show enthusiasm when your child selects a book.
The more you make the library a meaningful part of your family’s life, the more your child will associate happiness and joy with the library — and books.
6. Keep Books Within Reach
Keep books throughout your house. Put a bookshelf in your child’s room, keep books on the coffee table, decorate with books, and fill your bookshelves with books you love to read. Keep a basket or shelf just for library books that constantly rotate. Bring out seasonal books as you decorate for different holidays. Make books a familiar part of your child’s life and he’ll be more likely to reach for a book more often.
7. Connect Books to the World
Does your child love Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books? Go to a local farm to see the pigs. Search for elephants nearby, and have a conversation about why they aren’t in the same place.
Read Giles Andreae’s Giraffe’s Can’t Dance, and then head to the zoo to contemplate whether or not the giraffes dance when you aren’t looking.
Read Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, and then look for letters on store signs, street signs, and refrigerators.
Read Dr. Seuss‘s Green Eggs and Ham, and discuss foods or experiences you and your child might be afraid to try. Then go try them!
8. Let Them Read What They Want
Introduce your child to new books regularly, but also let her read what she wants. If she’s a pre-reader, this may mean you’re going to have to read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish 100 times, but if your child is enjoying the story and the process of reading, you’re on the right track to help your preschooler love reading.
When your child gets older and reads on their own, don’t criticize them if they only want to read Junie B. Jones or Captain Underpants. Let them read what they love on their own, and continue reading other books to them out loud to expose them to new authors and stories.
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we work on pre-reading and reading skills constantly and immerse the children in a reading environment. Come see us in action. Come to an open house or give us a call at (801) 523-5930.