Simply put, activities such as reading books together and storytelling are important in early childhood education in relation to developing literacy, language, and social skills later in life.
Reasons for this importance go beyond the simple fact that literacy is a fundamental part of functioning in today’s society. Reading is how we discover new things that interest us. It is how we continue to educate ourselves in any area of life and at any age, especially in a modern world with information readily available with a click of a button. Reading also develops the imagination. Readers can go anywhere or be anything they want to be when reading a great book. It also fosters childlike creativity, innovation, and the ability to communicate effectively.
Going beyond this, reading is proven to improve cognitive skills and help in the process of cognitive development — the emergence of the ability to think, understand, and receive information freely. Reading skills essential to literacy, such as phonemic awareness (being able to hear, identify, and name words), phonics (being able to connect letters in a written language in a spoken language), vocabulary, fluency and comprehension can be introduced through reading practice – even if it means simply reading books to your child!
With the awareness that reading has many benefits to early childhood development and education, it can often times be hard to get children excited to read, especially when there are now movies, video games, and short videos within reach on any device. So, how can we share an enthusiasm for reading with our children in a modern world?
Incentives are small rewards to inspire motivation to keep moving forward towards certain goals. There are some wonderful reward systems and incentives you can easily take advantage of at home and in public. There are reading programs with many different companies that you can look into. With about 15-30 minutes of reading a day, children can earn a free book from Barnes & Nobles, game tokens from Chuck E. Cheese, free pizza through Pizza Hut’s Book-It Program, and even an admission ticket to Six Flags using their “Read to Succeed” program.
Home incentives can include anything from making funky bookmarks to making time for playing outside. These can be as big or small as you choose and can be catered to the whims of your child. Use your discretion!
Read Aloud with Your Child, Let Them See You Read
It’s important to start by making sure everyone is comfortable and can see the book that is being read. Allow young readers/listeners to settle down for a few minutes before jumping in as the mood that you set before reading contributes to retaining attention. Show them the cover of the book: how do the pages feel?
By using expressions and different tones to fit the dialogue of the text, you can create suspense and excitement within the story. It’s important to read with them, and not to them. Draw attention to certain words and phrases. Point with your finger to the word that you are on to draw further attention to it.
Find books that are interesting, or read a series of books
Reading can be intimidating, and oftentimes, boring for young children. Books, when compared to the array of television shows, movies, video games, and internet videos readily available, have a harder time grabbing people’s interest than ever before. It helps to give your child the option to pick out books that fit their own interests and hobbies. If your child wants to read about zombies and unicorns, let them! You might be surprised to find yourself also interested in the books that your child is drawn to.
Find habitual time for reading together and discuss what you’ve read
Between juggling professional, personal, and family commitments, it can be hard to find time to foster a love of reading with your children. One great way to establish reading within your own routine is to create physical routine charts with your children’s personal routines laid out for them. Involve tasks that include one to two words, such as: bath, read book, sleep, etc. Encourage them to read this chart out loud. This activity allows them the opportunity to feel more comfortable reading in different circumstances other than a book. Find time during the week that will be the easiest time to pick up a book with your child and read without distractions and commit to even a few minutes a day, even if it is just a few times a week. Confirm you have enough time after the book you have read to discuss how the words made you both feel. Did the story inspire your child to create their own story? Allow them the time to have a safe space to explore those creative thoughts and feelings.
Create your own library or reading nook at home
Choose an appropriate and quiet space – the space should be inviting. Pillows, beanbags, and good lighting can make any nook the perfect place to curl up with a good book. Books should be housed within reach, preferably on a low, sturdy shelf. It also helps to encourage your child to create their own books, showing them how to weave string through the “binding” of a few pieces of paper and let them scribble their own stories within it.
There is no question that practicing reading each day can be beneficial in early childhood development. From improving cognitive skills to improving imagination and creativity, it is essential to find time to share enthusiasm for reading with your children. By using a few of these helpful methods, we hope your family will enjoy many books together in the future. Happy Reading!