I have always been a loner, and what better for a loner to do than to read books?
Reading is my nirvana, my catharsis, my anxiolytic, and my antidepressant..I have been passionate about reading since I was very young, and it gives me immense pleasure to inculcate the habit of reading in my child.
While I am no expert on the topic of teaching a child to read, I can certainly share my experience. The following points may be useful when starting out:
1. It is better to start reading to your infant as early as possible. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading aloud to infants as it promotes better language skills.
2. Starting with picture-heavy books, that have simple pictures showing one theme on one page, is a good idea. There are numerous books that try to cram too much pictorial information in one page, and they can be distracting for the young child.
3. As your child grows in to a toddler, get him/her more involved. One can point out pictures to then in a book and ask them to name them. The attention span of a toddler being what it is, long stories are not for them.
4. I have found that setting aside a fixed time everyday helps establish a habit of reading. Now my 3 year old himself brings books to me in case I forget. We have also decided that we are going to read 2stories/ 2 books a day, and we usually stick to that.
5. It is a good idea to take them to the local library and read books with them there. Personally, I love picking out books in a library, and my son has started doing the same. It helps that the child has a limitless variety to choose from. I am still squeamish about borrowing books at his age, though, because I don’t want him to damage them in the midst of a temper tantrum!
6. Buying new books can be expensive, but I buy books for a dollar or less at the local library. Moreover, the donated books we find at the library have usually been read and liked by other children, so their likability factor is usually high.
7. Playdates can be modified to “read aloud” dates, where you and your friends can read aloud to children instead of leaving them alone with toys.
8. Being an immigrant family in the US, we celebrate both local and Indian holidays. That calls for a LOT of gifting! I try to alternate buying books and toys as gifts for my son. (Guess I am lucky I have a boy because he does not ask for clothing and accessories as gifts!)
9. I think it is important to have a variety of books. For my son, I have relatively complicated story books with different characters (ranging from Disney characters to folk tales from around the world), simple picture books with fewer words (so that he can start reading words for himself), factual books (eg. books on planets, animals, human body etc.) and poetry books, to name a few. We try not to repeat books for a week or so, but sometimes I have to bow down to his wishes..
As you continue to read with your child, you’ll find them developing abstract thinking. Pretty soon your child will be weaving fact in to fiction, creating dramatic stories, and building up his/her vocabulary in the process..