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When should you start reading to your child?
It can’t be “too early” in this matter. It is best to start even when the baby is in the womb. He hears his mother’s or father’s voice and remembers it. Hearing it after birth, feels safe and calms down much faster.
Babies don’t understand words when you read to them. But your voice stimulates their interest in sounds, intonations and helps develop listening skills.
The sooner you start reading to children, the better. The basics of speaking develop in a child’s brain during the first 3 years. This is facilitated by frequent conversations and reading aloud. The more the child hears different words, the faster his passive vocabulary is replenished.
Why reading is good for kids
In addition to being good for vocabulary building, early reading stimulates a child’s imagination and improves their communication skills. It also has the following positive aspects:
- spending time together and interactive communication strengthens bonding and strengthens relationships with parents;
- introduces the child to the system of letters, numbers, shapes and colors;
- develops logical and figurative thinking;
- develops perseverance and attention;
- encourages you to think about what you have heard;
- introduces different models of behavior;
- soothes and distracts from noisy games or pranks.
All these processes do not start in the child immediately. From birth to 5-6 years old, he develops the ability to understand what is read to him. Children learn to read independently and understand what they read at about 6-13 years old. But even at this age it is easier for them to perceive information by ear, so it is important not to stop reading to older children.
Reading has an important psychological function. On the example of the heroes of different books, you can discuss with the child role models – positive and negative heroes, the reasons for their actions. This is true with both the youngest and older children.
What books to choose for children to read
It doesn’t matter to newborns what you read, and intonations and emotions when reading play more important. Therefore, any books are suitable – poems, lullabies, short stories of any content. But as the child grows older, one should be more responsible in choosing books.
What to read to a baby
While the baby cannot read on his own, simple and kind fairy tales are suitable. It is important that they do not contain scenes where the heroes are killed, even if they are negative. Ideal for this age are short or adapted folk tales, poems by Agnia Barto, Samuil Marshak, nursery rhymes.
Picture books come to the fore at this age. They may not even contain any text, since the baby will not get acquainted with letters and words soon. Reading during this period combines two actions at once – the ability to listen and look at pictures. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the following characteristics:
- Simple illustrations. Children under one year of age have difficulty perceiving many details. Images should be simple and recognizable.
- Realism. At this age, the baby absorbs information without analyzing it. Therefore, book images should be as close to real as possible. This applies to color, shape and details. For example, animals must walk on 4 legs, without boots or hats.
- Minimum number of colors. The younger the baby, the less colorful the illustrations should be. Blue, yellow, green, red, black, white – these colors are suitable for the first book images.
The baby will definitely want to feel the book, examine it from all sides and even try it “by the tooth”. After all, he now receives most of the information with the help of tactile sensations. Therefore, books should be strong, with a hard cover and pages.
What books are best for an older child
At the age of 1-2 years, children are still occupied with books with colorful illustrations. Editions with photographs can be added to bright pictures and drawings. During this period, the development of fine motor skills is especially important, so books that the child can interact with are ideal for reading. They may include:
- voluminous folding pages;
- images behind the “windows”;
- pockets on various fasteners or without them;
- buttons with songs or sounds.
The Wimmelbuch books deserve special attention – thematic spreads with many small details in the illustrations. They do not contain text, and with their help you can encourage the child to talk, develop his imagination and attentiveness. At first, when viewing such books, you can “read” your interpretation of the images to the child, and then ask him questions and involve him in compiling stories.
In addition to fairy tales, reading funny short poems or nursery rhymes is relevant at this age. They are easy to remember and then use in games or accompany them with everyday activities.
Closer to 2.5-3 years, more complex works can be added to simple short tales and poems:
fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen (“The Bremen Town Musicians”, “Cinderella”, “Sleeping Beauty”, “Thumbelina”, “A Boy with a Thumb” and others);
fairy tales of the peoples of the world;
stories about animals and nature (works by Vitaly Bianchi and Nikolai Sladkov);
poems and stories by Korney Chukovsky.
Also, children of this age become interested in thematic collections of images, so various children’s encyclopedias will be relevant. Ideally, if they contain realistic pictures or photographs, as well as short text notes with useful information.
Do not remove the very first short stories when your child is older. You can not only continue to read them, but also diversify your classes. Put on role-playing performances on them, memorize dialogues, compose thematic classes.
Are audiobooks helpful?
One of the important functions of reading aloud is the development of listening skills. It would seem that audiobooks can cope with this. They are recorded by professional announcers, so they contain the necessary intonations and emotions. And they can provide parents with free time, because it is enough just to turn on their playback and go about their business.
But in this case, another important component of reading is overlooked – emotional intimacy. Perhaps mom or dad will not be able to read the fairy tale so “professionally”, but they will hug the baby while reading, look at the pictures with him and pay attention to important details.
Experts recommend not including audio books, digital presentations or educational programs for children until 2-3 years old. Until this age, it is very important to carry out a whole range of actions while reading:
read or pronounce the text;
examine illustrations together with the child;
match text with pictures.
Should children be taught sounds and letters?
Many parents try to teach their child letters and sounds while reading. This is certainly a necessary and developing skill. But an early focus on learning to read can backfire. The child, when read aloud to him, experiences pleasure and develops a love of books. If, however, to focus his attention on independent reading, learning the alphabet or composing syllables, then the pleasure from this activity will be lost.
Experts advise separating just reading “for pleasure” and learning activities. You shouldn’t combine them. Let the child just listen to an interesting story in your performance, look at the pictures and start the process of imagination. There will come a moment when he himself will be interested in looking for already familiar letters in books, combining them into words and experiencing the joy of reading on his own.
How do children get the most out of reading?
One of the tasks of reading together with children is to instill in them a love and interest in books, which they will then carry throughout their lives. It is important to show the child that each book and story is fraught with a whole world that can be felt and “seen”. How to do it:
- Use creativity. After reading the next work, invite the child to mold, draw or glue its characters. Discuss what they look like, what they do, what qualities they have.
- Ask questions. The more of them there are, the more interactive the process of joint reading will be. You can ask the child, both after reading, and in the process. Encourage him to pay attention to details and fantasize about the possible development of the plot.
- Develop empathy and emotional intelligence in children. Discuss the emotions of the characters, help the child feel them and sympathize. To get started, ask simple questions “Do you think this boy is sad or laughing?”. As you get older, the questions will get harder. “Have you ever felt the same way? In what situations?
- Ask for impressions. After reading, ask if your son or daughter liked this story. Ask older children to justify their opinion.
- Pause for dialogue. It is not necessary to read to the end to talk and discuss what you have read. Stop from time to time, especially if you see that the child does not understand everything.
When reading to children, do not forget that a true love of books can only be instilled by one’s own example. Therefore, treat this not as a duty or obligation, but as an opportunity to spend interesting time with your child, communicate and immerse yourself in the wonderful world of fairy tales and stories.