If the world of books was a wonderful place where one could get lost in time and travel to an enchanted place, children’s books are the way to get there. Parents today are increasingly introducing their babies and children to books from an early age. You would guess this would be when the children start reading. But, No. Children are being read to from the time they are as little as a newborn or even before – from the time they have been in mummy’s tummy.
They say the best way to encourage a skill or habit is to start them young. And books are the best example of that. Young children today are asking to be read to and have an enviable collection of books before their 1st birthday. I speak for myself.. babyT had more than 50 books and his own bookshelf before he turned 1.
But what is it about books that makes parents want to follow the practice of reading books?
What is #RaisingAReader
Like most things a hashtag has been created, called #RaisingAReader and is widely used by parents to showcase their children’s reading moments on social media.
Raising a reader was also a social change movement that originated in the USA which aimed to promote book reading and sharing among its members. Their vision is as follows –
“Children will benefit from healthy brain development, family bonding, and increased literacy skills – all proven elements for lifetime success! Children will enter school with a love of books and will be motivated and ready to learn.”
And this is what did the trick for me too. When I read up about why parents were introducing children’s books so early on, I made up my mind that the first book my child will read and hold would not be a school textbook. I wanted him to read and know the classic stories that I spent my summers reading or the wonderful new local book publishers who write very culture relevant books for kids.
Early introduction to books is known to –
- instill a love for reading, of course
- encourage development of language and vocabulary
- teaches them the building blocks of reading – ABCs, words.
- Fuels imagination – children begin to paint the pictures they hear/ read in their mind.
- A useful tool to teach children concepts – right from potty training to not hitting other kids or cleaning up the room
- calms down children in anxious moments
- build routine – whether it is a book in the morning or at bedtime, books encourage and build comforting routines for children
- prepare children for school and to see books and learning as a positive experience
- appeals to all senses (how can a book do that? Telling you this soon, below)
What sort of children’s books does one read?
Children’s books are much more than just black and white text with colourful pictures strewn on them. They provide a treat for the senses alike. How?
Books today make sound, can be touched – have texture, surprise you – lift the flap book, engage with you – have puzzles in them, high contrast books for developing eyes.
There are also cloth books, books for bath time and Quiet books which are full of activities and fine motor skill development for babies.
How can one develop the reading habit in children?
Pick a book yourself
Children will not do as you tell, they will do as they see and do. So if you want to encourge your child to read, pick a book and read yourself. Reading together is also a great way to build a love for books.
The best way to inculcate a good habit is by starting young. So don’t wait to begin reading books to your child. We started around the time babyT was 15 days old. I will admit it felt really odd to read a book to a child who was probably not even hearing anything but sounds. He was definitely not able to see any of the pictures in the book. But it helped me develop the habit of reading to my child. I read the same book every day for about 2 months – the book was The Hungry Caterpillar. Today we love that book, whenever we read that book together it gives us both a sense of calm. Maybe it has to do with our early days bonding over it.
Read my post from last year’s #AtoZBlogging challenge – B for Books
Introduce age-appropriate books only
Babies and toddlers obviously would not find joy in pictureless books, with page after page of written text. Nor would they have the patience to sit through more than 5 – 10 minutes of being read to.
For babies especially, introduce wordless books with high contrast images – black and white or yellow colours, patterns work best for babies. For slightly older babies – who are teething, every object is a tool to ease their teething pains. So board or cloth books come in handy here. These can be easily wiped or washed and reused.
Page turning is a skill that requires fine motor skills and so paper backs or books with thin pages should only be introduced later (around 10 months is when I introduced it. I still lost a few pages/ books to his developing skills. But he’s learnt how to turn them now.)
This is also a good time to introduce lift the flap, sound and textured books.
Read my post on Introducing babies to fine Art
Books with longer stories and sentences have been getting some eye balls in our house only after babyT turned 2. Ditto with puzzle books.
Accept that there will be favourites and not so loved ones
For the longest time we hated Goodnight Moon. We, both babyT and I just couldn’t stomach reading it beyond 2 pages. So the book was shelved and put away. A few months later we tried again and now we love it. It guarantees to do its job well – getting us yawning and sleepy. And that’s not out of boredom.
Read my review of the parody of Goodnight Moon – Goodnight Mr Darcy
Accept that there will be interruptions
Do remember you are reading to a child who has a curious and active mind running off in many different directions. Expecting a child to sit through an entire book is only setting yourself up for disappointment. Most parents I know have expressed this as a major concern. They feel something is wrong with their child.
Children will not have the patience to behave like that. If anything it is us grown ups who should show patience when a child walks off and wait for him to return to you. If he doesn’t move on. Maybe tomorrow will be a day he wants to sit and read the whole lot out.
Read out aloud, animate, make noises & voices, sing
There’s nothing to feel shy or embarrassed about making funny voices and faces when you are reading to your child. The more animatedly you read the book , the more they will stick around and want to listen to it.
Build a routine
Books don’t have to be read at a particular time alone. But it is good to build a routine around them. For us, we read after breakfast and after waking up from our evening nap. Books just before bedtime never worked for us. However we did not fret over this, because our other times more than made up for it.
Don’t worry about buying expensive books
There are lot of preloved book sellers in the market. They acquire books from both local and international sources and sell them for prices ranging from Rs 100 onwards. Preloved basically means that the books have been used by someone else and now no longer in use by them.
Similarly books you’ve used and which no longer delight can be passed on to someone you know or sold to bulk buyers.
Nonetheless, investing in books is a sound thing to do because the benefits outweigh all other risks. 🙂
Allow the child to choose his books
Having books is one thing and then having access to them is another. As the child grows a bit – even as young as 1+ , let them access to the books. Let them pick their own books. When books are a part of their tangible world, it makes children feel a greater affinity for them. Books and reading become second nature.
Have a dedicated bookshelf where babies can access these books. The book rack should also ideally be structured so as to showcase the book front to the viewer. Choosing and picking a book becomes fun then.
The world of books has been a saving grace for us many a times. It has helped calm a wailing, whiny and tantrummy toddler. It has saved us on countless car journeys, boring restaurant dates and weekends away from our toys and playroom. And I know one day I shall walk into a quiet room to find a little head buried in a book.
If you haven’t started reading to your child yet, now is as good as any to begin. It’s never too late to fall in love with books.
This blog post is part of a series for the #AtoZBloggingChallenge where my theme is
New Age Parenting: Parenting in 201x.
Read my theme reveal post here.
To read all the posts for the #AtoZChallenge go here – #AtoZ2018
You may also find this post on Open Ended Toys very interesting too.