While it may seem like a simple act, reading can open up a whole world of possibilities – it can open a child’s imagination or spark a new interest. Kids’ interests and imaginations will lead them down a path to do amazing things in life.
Reading can also help children perform better in school and set them on track for long-term academic success as well as achievement outside of the classroom. Reading is even more important during distance learning and COVID-19 because kids may not be reading as much for school. With summer break coming up, it’s a good time to start this habit.
Why are reading and literacy important during COVID-19?
During this time of uncertainty and anxiety, reading to a child, or together as a family, has never been more critical to strengthen those family bonds and help kids feel loved and secure. Spending time together with a book can be that safe escape that kids might need at the moment, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
Parents can set aside time each day for reading, whether you read together or your kids like to read independently. Make it a part of the family routine.
Reading tips for any age
Dr. Gigi Chawla, chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota and medical director of Reach out and Read Minnesota, shares tips for reading with kids of any age:
While it may seem strange to read to an infant, reading with your baby is a great way to help them learn to talk. Try to set aside some time to read with your baby every day – right before naptime or bedtime are great options, but you can read at any point of the day. One of the best ways to ensure your baby grows up to love reading is to have books around your house.
Toddlers want to feel included and capable. Choose books they can follow along with, especially those with familiar or repetitive text so they can fill in words. Keep your toddler’s interest by choosing books with small amounts of words on the page and books about topics that you know your child will enjoy and understand.
Sturdy cardboard books about familiar topics like bedtime, bath time or meals are great choices. By now you will start to know what your child likes. Whether it’s trains, trucks, or stuffed bears, try to find books about these things. Children around this age commonly also like books about children, families, and animals.
Now that your child is a toddler, it’s likely they are starting to turn paper pages, so it’s a good time to move beyond board books. They’re also beginning to understand the mechanics of reading. They like books that are repetitive and easy to memorize so that they can “read” along. Don’t forget to go beyond the actual words on the pages to ask them questions about what they are seeing on the page or what the character in the story should do next in order to spark your child’s imagination.
As your child becomes a more confident reader, continue to introduce a wide range of books. When it comes to reading aloud, look for two types of books — those that could be read alone and those that are above your child’s current independent reading level. With this mix, your child can re-read some of these books independently, while you’ll have to do the reading (or at least help) with the challenging ones that allow your child to enjoy a more sophisticated story and learn new words.
Let your child’s interests lead the way when you are choosing books. Look for books on topics you know are of interest and ones that relate to these things. As your child gets older, you will find that they enjoy increasingly complex books that teach about the world and introduce social and global views that expand their perspectives.