This is a post about how to get you and your child started. How to raise a book lover. This is a recipe for a great and fun quality time together. Reading is important for your child’s development. Reading is fun, reading is a great entertainment and boredom buster. Reasons are countless and there should be a separate, very long post listing all of them.
Children’s books take a lot of space and time in our home. Z loves her books, she loves reading together and she “reads” to her toys, especially to Iggle Piggle. I have been asked a lot how it is possible that she sits still listening to a story of 25 pages and then asks for another one. Part of that is, of course, her personality and her choice, she’s also not a very physically active toddler. Books hasn’t always been her favorite activity, there was a time when 5 pages long cardboard book was impossible to read. It took time, patience and consistency to get us where we are.
This is my know-how:
1. Day 1.
Yes, this is not a mistake. You can read to a newborn baby. Read out loud, your voice will have a calming effect. No children’s books at this stage – your current adult read will be best. Something you can enjoy. Zosia was calmed down by one of the books by Oriana Fallaci – truly nothing you would read to a toddler or a preschooler.
Buy one or two black and white cardboard books with very simple and large images. These are the colors newborns and young babies see most clearly, because of the high contrast. We had two little b&w books: one on the changing table, the other either in a pram or cot. You will be surprised how quickly they start to look at these pictures! Your role is to describe them, talk about, make up simple stories about these objects.
2. Grabbing and page turning.
The moment a baby can grab is a good time to start playing with cloth books – easy to wash, safe to chew and generally indestructible. Turning pages is a great activity on its own. Simple pictures, short sentenced stories, different textures and sound effects (no electronics but sounds related to the fabric) – this is what you’re looking for.
3. Almost reading.
Books with elements that can be taken out, puzzle-like and sound books. We fell in love with that series of sound books – thanks to them Z can imitate and recognize 5 species of birds and lots of animals and we’re moving to musical instruments now. Generally you want books that a child can play with, do something with. I guess books with elements to touch would go to this group, too although I have to admit we never had any success with those.
4. Story time
Short-sentenced short stories. Usually not more than one sentence per page. It’s best if they rhyme. Find a genre you will enjoy, because you may end up reading one story 30 times a day. Some kids will enjoy it as early as at 6 months, some at 8 months, some way past their first birthday, some around 2nd birthday. It depends on a child and on how much you read. Don’t expect your always running kid to sit still for 10 minutes but keep trying. Read with funny voices, they have to see you enjoy it, too. If they want to turn the page before you finish the sentence – let it be. You can even just talk about pictures and not read the book. Find whatever is best for your tandem.
If you notice your child is mostly interested in pictures, and points to different objects on the pictures, try big format picture books with lots of details and hidden stories. We love them here and spend hours exploring the illustrations.
Slowly move to longer and more complicated books. Remember that sometimes it’s not the length of the book but pictures or the story that will not interest your child. If he has a favorite cartoon buy books about that character. We have a big collection of In the Night Garden and Peppa Pig books. Don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t want to read a particular book, he will eventually ask for it himself.
If you’re very artsy craftsy you may enjoy creating felt quiet books for your child. They are good for any age, they can present simple pictures, whole stories, involve an activity. For an explanation go here.
Don’t pay too much attention to suggested age frame for each book. Each child is different, you will no what they need. Z is not 2 years old yet and some books we read are marked “4+” and she still enjoys those marked “1+”.
As long as your child enjoys reading, as long as those books have words there is really nothing to discuss.
One last important bit. Children learn by copying adults. If you don;t read, or don;t even have passion for books it may be difficult to convince your children to read. It’s like being told by a smoker how bad smoking is.