A love of reading can begin early. Josie Ortega advises parents not to be anxious about when to teach your child to read, but to focus on creating a print-rich environment.
Way before children are old enough to learn to read, parents can pave the way by fostering early literacy skills and cultivating a print-rich environment at home.
t’s just a way to say that we parents can help kids see that books and reading are valued. Young kids will be clued in that the written word is another way we can communicate; that those lines and squiggles mean something.
Reading to children provides wonderful benefits, including:
Before we get stressed out about how to do this, let’s take a deep breath. Here’s the spoiler alert: Have books. Read together. Have paper and something to scribble with. Hang out with your kids.
Read on if you want more details and ideas! If you’re like me, it helps to think through some concrete action items. Don’t tell my kids: I think I benefit from the structure and routines we’ve set up just as much as they do.
Studies have shown that kids are better prepared for kindergarten when they come from so-called print-rich environments and when they show high interest in reading.
Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, outlines some factors that researchers found in the home environments of high-interest readers:
OK. Totally do-able! Great news: you’re helping your child learn to love reading when you relax with your magazine and a favorite beverage. Keep up the good work, you reading hero.
And a quick confession: my kids don’t have their own library cards. The oldest does know how to check out books with mine . . . can we count that? I can barely keep up with my own card, so I think we’ll stick to the status quo for awhile.
Take a look around your house and take stock of whether books are valued and usable. Here are a few specific ideas to make books available for both kids and adults.
A study found that “people who grow up with books at home tend to have higher reading comprehension and better mathematical and digital communication skills.” Get that home library going, and you’re setting everyone up for success.
On top of providing books and reading with your children, you can think about other small steps to boost your kid’s familiarity with the written word.
I found many practical ideas in Superbaby—a book whose title makes me cringe!—but whose author Jenn Mann synthesized tons of research about what’s especially beneficial for a child’s development from 0 to 3 years old.
Mann warns against formal instruction, like drilling with flashcards, at this young age. But, she suggests plenty of steps that parents and caregivers can take to make reading fun and enjoyable.
Researchers have found that the brain uses writing the letters as an important step in learning to read! Who knew? (Not I.)
They’ll begin with scribbling, and cutting confetti with scissors, and eventually be able to trace a line, cut along a line, copy letters, learn to write their name. You will be off to the races, my friend. (And I will cry with you over their swiftly passing childhood.)
Even with wonderful books at our fingertips, we can fail to take advantage of them! To develop the habit, you might try making reading an official part of the family schedule, and you can work it into other areas of life as well.
This list above should get the wheels turning and give a couple of easy steps—not all the ideas at once!—that will help make reading together a beloved and enjoyable time for your family.
If your baby still insists on eating the book, or your toddler just ripped the cover off: keep moving forward. Little by little you’ll build a reading culture that you’ll come to treasure. Just keep creating that print-rich environment.