You’ve probably heard that readers are leaders. Did you know that there are certain pre-reading skills a child learns before they actually start reading? That’s why it’s never too early to place a book in front of your toddler and read to and with them.
Of course, at two and three you can’t really expect your toddler to read, but if you have a little one you’d love to instil a love of books in, here are a few pointers to start with:
1. Let them see you reading. This is the very first step in raising an avid reader. Toddlers watch you and take note of your lifestyle, and they can be quite the little imitators at this age. Take advantage of it.
2. Keep books around the house. When books are within reach, your toddler is more likely to pick them up and “read” and this will help form a good habit that will stay with him throughout life.
3. Read to your toddler. The more you read to your little one, the more practice he has with language and talking to your child about what’s happening on the pages can actually help your child become a better communicator. Be sure to tell your child the title of the book, and the author. This will help your child understand the makeup of a book better.
4. Use your finger. When you point to words as you read, your child learns that words are made up of letters which form sentences and that the sequence goes from left to right. This is a very vital stage in your toddler’s introduction to the world of books.
5. Don’t get tired of repeating the same story. Every parent who has ever read to their toddler knows what it feels like to read one story over and over and still hear, “Read it again!” However, what your child is doing, apart from enjoying the story, is getting really acquainted with the details, and this boosts his memory and concentration. With time, you may be surprised that your toddler can tell you the story himself! Try it- next time you read that favourite story, change something, and watch him correct you! It’s amazing.
6. Ask and answer questions. Reading time is such a wonderful time for learning how the world of words works, animals and plants to family relationships and friendship. It’s also a good time to learn about how language works. I remember the first time I mentioned Elisha. My toddler went “No, mummy, Elijah.” He thought I had made a mistake because he only knew the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. I had to explain that there were certain names that sounded similar, but they were individual names that sometimes had only one different sound. He was fascinated and spent the rest of the week changing sounds in people’s names to form other names (hello, Uncle Azuka and Uncle Azika) but the important thing is that he’s manipulating sounds. This skill will show up in more important ways later.
7. Enjoy rhyming. Whether or not you’re raising a future MI Abaga, connecting the idea that letters match sounds, and that certain words rhyme with others, will enrich your child’s vocabulary, and life. Dr. Seuss books are great for stories that rhyme, but you can also come up with your own and incorporate poems and songs as well. Before you know it, your child will be writing his own verse!
8. Teach sight words. Sight words are words that cannot be sounded or spelt. Your child will simply need to recognize them by looking, and this means that even a two-year-old can learn them. I made sight word flash cards for my toddler at that age, and we had fun getting to know them. It was nothing grand, just cardboard paper, a marker and quality time.
It’s never too early to start. Wondering how to manage engaged parenting when you and your partner work? Read this.