Monday, September 12, 2011

If you read to a child, chances are they'll learn to love reading themselves

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Reading to children in the home sets kids up for success in school and in life. That's a fact supported by teachers and groups such as the National Center for Education Statistics -- not to mention a lot of moms.

"Is Your Mama a Llama?" or "Little Miss Spider" and "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" and "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom." These are among the favorites I enjoyed reading aloud to my children. 

But reading came natural to me.

My parents were both avid readers, so books were a part of our life. Whether we were snowed in during the winter or packing the car for a summer trip, some type of reading material was tossed into the mix.

Knowing the importance of such traditions, many groups have created special funds or partnerships so that no family is without reading material. VTech, a company that specializes in electronic learning products, joined with First Book, a global social enterprise that provides books to parents who can't afford them, by donating more than 4,000 new books to Head Start programs across the country. "Reading at home makes a real difference, in a lot of ways," said Kyle Zimmer, First Book's founder and corporate executive officer. "It' provides the bonding little ones will need to feel confident in school, as well as an affinity for reading on their own throughout their lives."

 For parents who are just getting started, here are some ways to get your child to love reading:
Make it a cozy experience. What many children love the most about reading a good book is the attention they're getting from mom or dad and the snuggle factor. "The feeling of connection helps them calm down before nap or bedtime, and creates a sense of security that will help them build healthy relationships with others later in life," Zimmer said.

Be particular. Toddlers and children beginning to comprehend letters and numbers are drawn to bright colors and big pictures, so look for books with plenty of illustrations. Consider a child's interest such as music, dance, sports and cooking.

Do voiceovers. Instead of a straight read, disguise your voice as one of the characters in the story and encourage your child to repeat some of the funnier or scarier lines. This will make it more fun and help to further engage your child.

Consider it play. If you've got a child who squirms and cannot sit still, try incorporating storylines into playtime. "This will likely result in the child's excitement to learn more of the plot during the next story time and will lead to a fondness for classic story characters," Zimmer said.

Create your own story. Instead of using a book, make up a story. Let your child be the protagonist. Not sure where to start? Consider an everyday activity such as brushing your teeth or feeding the dog, and then go from there. Make it even more fun by encouraging your child to create illustrations to go along with the story.

Hunting books such as "Where's Waldo" are great for engaging the reader, but you can do that with any story. Pick out items and ask your child to point them out. Practice numbers by counting items or choosing things in the story that are a particular color.

Turn it up a notch. Consider using tech-savvy tools that feature interactive stories that help kids love learning to read.

What's your favorite book to read aloud?

The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination -- Elizabeth Hardwick.

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