1. Start a routine of reading a story every day, starting from when your child is born (or soon after). Even though a new born can’t yet understand the words you are saying, they love to hear your familiar voice and lots of stories have rhythms to them that babies respond really well to. When I had a colicky new born I read and read to him and this helped him settle and sleep (and probably kept me sane). Our family still reads stories together multiple times every day. Set up a routine early and reading easily becomes part of everyday life. Also, when we read stories to babies they have an opportunity to hear words and sentence structures we don’t use with them in everyday language, so this can also have a positive impact on oral language development.
  2. Let your child explore books from when they are very young. Early literacy skills include learning how to open a book and how to turn the pages. Children also learn early on that words and pictures in books carry meaning (but they don’t yet know what they mean). Stand interesting books open in front of your baby during tummy time. Let your baby touch (and probably chew) books. Don’t feel angry when they are rough with books or ‘wreck’ some. This is how babies explore and it is all part of the learning process. Maybe select sturdy board books and leave the special books out of reach for a while.
  3. Model a love of reading to your child. Kids like to copy everything they see and if you are an avid reader, you can bet they will want to be as well! Letting you kids see you reading a novel is great but it doesn’t have to be a book. Newspapers, blogs, letters, magazines etc. can all be a great read. Talk to your child about what you’re reading or how you enjoy it. Talk about how reading enriches your life; maybe through your ability to read recipes or to research a question on the internet.
  4. Join the local library. The library is an amazing resource of books. Even if you have lots of books at home, you will probably find that the library has heaps of new and exciting books you haven’t even heard of. Some lucky librarian has the job of researching and choosing books to buy regularly and they are probably very passionate about choosing great ones. Your rates are paying for this service (and if you are renting it is most likely built into the rent you pay) so take advantage! Make it a regular special outing for the whole family to visit and choose a book or two. Your local library will also have regular activities that your child is sure to enjoy!
  5. Make reading time a special time. There is sometimes nothing nicer than snuggling up with your child and a book. Make it a time to get comfy on the couch or bed or to find a quiet hiding place. You can get the whole family involved too, including the pets! Maybe you need cushions/blankets/hot chocolates to make it extra special. If you treat reading time as something that is very special you can bet that your child will want more of that! My son is not particularly cuddly but he loves a good book and snuggle, and knows that books mean he gets to have some lovely one-on-one tie with an adult.
  6. Read the same books over and over. Always encourage your child to have favourite books. Is your child bringing you the same book continually to read? Try not to say “Oh no, not again!”, instead try “Wow, you love this book!” or “This book must be very special to you”. Try to figure out what it is about favourites that your child loves so you can find some more just like it. Maybe it’s the subject of the book your child finds so great or it could be the books format that appeals (lots of kids love lift-the-flap books or books that rhyme).
  7. Choose books which follow your child’s interest and encourage them to do the same. Books are so varied and it’s possible to find books about every single topic you could think of. As adults, we have very varied tastes in what we find interesting or enjoyable to read and children are exactly the same. Some children will prefer non-fiction books from a young age and some reluctant readers may need a bit more thought to find something that sparks their interest.
  8. Make books available all the time. Make sure there are books that your child can easily get their hands on in the toy box or on a low shelf they can reach (I still have some special books that are out of my toddlers reach, but only because I think he would be disappointed if something happened to them). Take books with you on outings in your bag or in the car. Take along books to read when you know you will be waiting somewhere. Let your child have a book while they rest. You can even buy waterproof books that your child can play with in the bath.
  9. Talk about the story. While reading a story, stop and talk with your child about what’s happening. Talk about the characters. Make connections between what is happening in the story and your child’s life, i.e. “Remember when we went to the beach?” or “There’s a fire truck like Uncle drives”. These are all basic reading comprehension strategies, but they will also get kids more engaged in the story.
  10. Bring the story to life with your little ones. Your child will love seeing their books and favourite characters come to life. Surprise your child by taking them to places where they can see things from books ‘in the real world’. You could arrange a trip to the zoo or farm to see some animals they are interested in from a favourite book, or you could go for a walk and find some diggers, trucks and machinery from a much loved book. Use your imagination to spark your child’s!

Kirsty  

10 things you should do to establish your child's love of reading from a young age

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