There are so, SO many things young children can’t do, but there is one thing no kid is ever too young for – reading! Reading aloud to your child is something you can do to spend quality time and have fun together. Plus, it’s good for them!
Reading to your children has the following benefits (just to name a few):
- Improves vocabulary
- Enhances language comprehension skills
- Helps with imagination building
- Helps social, emotional, and character development
How to engage your child in reading at all ages
First, find a quiet, comfortable spot to sit with your child during reading time. Point out pictures and practice words from the photos. Encourage and help your child turn the pages. And most importantly, enjoy this time as a family!
Naturally, reading milestones differ based on age. Even young babies can enjoy books; hearing you read helps them learn to talk and listen.
- Infants between 6-11 months: they can touch, feel, and taste books (it’s hard to avoid them from putting books in their mouths!). They can pay attention for a few minutes and may start trying to imitate the sounds you are saying. They can also pick up on the facial expressions you use as you read stories.
- 12-14 months: your child may be able to help pick out books they like, make animal noises when they see a familiar animal in photos, point to pictures they enjoy, and start to build their attention span.
- 15-17 months: your child may be babbling and laughing along with you to their favorite stories. As they approach their 2nd birthday and speech develops further, children may start asking for “more” books and be able to say a few words about the pictures they are seeing. You can encourage them to finish sentences in books they know well, and continue to build their vocabulary. At this age, trips to the library can become a very exciting activity to enjoy.
- Toddlers: they will start to learn that books are for more than just eating! You can start asking simple questions to engage them in the stories- “where is the kitty?” If you are consistent, you will be surprised to see how quickly your toddler is answering your questions and reciting stories back to you from memory.
- 2 or 3 years old: reading at bedtime has become a habit they do not want to break! A love for reading is one of the best gifts you can give. Just 10-20 minutes a day of reading can set them up for a lifetime. In addition to reading stories, you can count objects in books, point out colors and shapes, and encourage them to share ideas of what they think is happening. When they are ready, they can pretend to read books to you based on photos, which is a great way to exercise the imagination! Encourage them to be curious and ask questions.
- Preschool: try to encourage 20-30 minutes of reading daily. Children at this age love to incorporate stories into playtime by acting them out, which also encourages imagination.
The most important part of reading aloud to your child is to keep reading fun so that as they learn literacy skills in school they do not get discouraged! It’s okay if they don’t want to finish a book sometimes, or if they want to read the same book over and over. Try picking books about topics your child is interested in to keep them engaged. Also, during story time, let their imaginations run wild! I like to stop in the middle of a book and ask “what do you think is about to happen?” It is amazing to hear what your children come up with!