In the current technology age, more kids are flocking to screens for entertainment. While some benefits can come from being able to use different digital devices, reading remains the top way for kids to learn new things, grow intellectually and interact with their imaginations.
Raising an avid reader takes effort and goes beyond reading board books to a baby, but that is where it starts. Debra D. Tharp, M. Ed. is a reading specialist who says that as soon as a child can sit comfortably and supported is the perfect time to read them.
“Children love familiar songs and nursery rhymes which are important to reading development,” she says. “When a child learns rhyming words, it helps them to learn the basics of word patterns in reading simple words. When a parent gets excited about a book or a particular story, the child will share the same feeling and the parent is creating a foundation for a child to enjoy reading.”
According to Tharp, once a child reaches preschool, their parents should find books with fewer words per page so pages can be turned quickly, keeping the child’s interest. If parents need help locating good picture books, a public librarian will be happy to aid in finding the perfect books for your child. Central Rappahannock Community Library is a great resource for local families to take their children regularly.
Tharp says that children who are read to at home before starting school have a larger vocabulary and better understanding of words, and they associate books with joy and entertainment. Another important value of reading together is quality time.
Children love to go to the public library, and their love of books is even greater if parents provide new books weekly. Children also like to read books electronically on a Kindle or tablet, which also has a lot of benefits. Children can have the device read aloud to them, which has the same benefit as their parents reading to them.
Screen time is a hot topic for many parents these days, and the recommendation for children 2-5 years old is no more than one hour of screen time per day. “If a child has too much screen time, it can affect their sleep patterns and can create problems with behavior because they are not having enough time for creative and imaginative play,” says Tharp.
Children today have access to more technology than ever before, which can open doors to new and innovative ways of learning and make them choose screens over books, or even develop a hatred for reading.
Parents today are concerned about their children’s preference for video games over reading—and with good reason. If your child is hooked on video games, Mary Follin, founder of Teach your Child to Read, says there are several things parents can do to nurture their child’s love of reading. She recommends joining an online book swap so children can get excited to get a book in the mail, install a “Little Library” in the front yard where neighbors can swap books (kids will love checking it every day), join a book club, take them book shopping or to the library for a new book, and be a positive reading role model (if you are an avid reader, chances are they will be, too).
Parents should also help their children discover their preferred genre by surrounding their children with books about their favorite topics. Follin says that variety is not the key, but rather taking what they like to do and finding books on those topics to get them excited about reading.
For parents of reluctant readers, rather than making your child struggle to read at their reading level, it’s fine to drop a reading level or two so that they enjoy reading.
“If your reader is willing to keep her nose in a book for younger children, she will get all of the practice she needs,” Follin says. “Reading for enjoyment will enhance her skills faster than powering through a book that is too hard for her. Give your late bloomer the gift of taking the time she needs.”