It’s never too early to instill good reading habits with your kids. Reading begins at birth, and parents are a child’s first and best teacher.
The benefits of reading at every stage of a child’s development are well-documented. Research shows that when children enjoy reading, they’ll read more and make it a life-long habit. And the more kids read, the more successful they’ll be in school and in life.
In the past, early reading programs offered at libraries focused on the child, but since parents and caregivers are important influences in a child’s early life, new tools have been developed to help parents raise young readers at home.
“Reading skills help children think critically, learn how to problem-solve and understand relationships and patterns,” says Jessica Roy, Manager of the TD Summer Reading Club at the Toronto Public Library. “Even if your child isn’t quite old enough to participate in reading programs, getting started early helps them develop important skills that will set them up for success down the road.”
In the spirit of helping every child become passionate about reading, here’s what you need to know to instill an interest in reading.
Start young and stick with it
You can start reading with your child the moment they are born, and it doesn’t have to end when they learn how to read on their own. Reading together is a fun bonding activity, no matter your child’s age.
As your child goes from saying their first sentences to speaking in paragraphs, you too will start to see exciting milestones develop with reading, such as recognizing objects, turning pages and requesting certain books over others.
Bring literacy into your everyday activities
Driving to swimming lessons or headed to the cottage? Sing silly songs in the car and make up the lyrics as you go to develop your child’s vocabulary and ability to think on-the-spot. When reading together, make it even more enjoyable by challenging each other to use a funny voice. Before turning over a new page, try to guess what the next sentence will be. These activities take no extra supplies and can be done almost anywhere.
According to Roy, introducing bedtime stories into your daily routine is another great way to raise a reader. It can be a special time for parents and kids as well as a great way to work reading into your daily routine.
Let your child choose
Canadian librarians agree, read for fun and let kids choose what to read. Getting your child involved in choosing books helps get them excited so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
Ask your child what they like about the books you are reading together. Encourage them to express their opinion so you can seek out more books that suit their interest and you can incorporate them into your reading routine.
Don’t stop at books
Reading opportunities can be found everywhere – not just between the pages of a book. Point out text on cereal boxes, street signs, posters on transit, and soon you’ll notice that your child will start to recognize letters and numbers.
Build excitement through digital apps
While setting limits on screen time is important, apps can be useful tools to support your child’s learning because they’re fun and can be customized to individual needs. Focus on apps that can bring the family together while building storytelling, spelling, reading, writing and other literacy skills through fun games and creative play.
“Online tools are also a great way to connect,” says Roy. “We adopted an online component as part of the overall summer reading club programming, so readers can come together online with kids in other parts of the country, share their jokes and stories, and even recommend books to each other.”
Early reading resources
Plenty of free resources are available for parents who want to start building early literacy skills and get their kids excited about reading. This summer check your local library for additional early literacy resources and workshops, such as The TD Summer Reading Club.