Children are natural learners, and, in the early years, they grow and learn faster than at any other point in their lives. Children learn by watching, by listening and by doing.
The most important thing you as a parent can do to assist in language development is to talk to your child and to listen with interest when he is talking to you. Reading to young children and infants on a regular basis has many benefits. It sparks their imaginations and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to recognize the written word.
Reading aloud is one of the few activities that stimulates all of your young child's senses at the same time. Children "hear" the spoken word, while making connections to the pictures and written words that they "see." At the same time, their senses of "touch" and "smell" are activated by the close physical contact they share with parents while reading together. Combined, these positive sensations give children a "taste" for the excitement, joy and love of reading.
SOME READING STRATEGIES
- Remember to change the tone of your voice. When reading about story characters who are sleeping, whisper or use a quiet voice; for active characters, use an excited voice.
- Pace is important. If you read too slowly, an infant will lose interest; if you read too quickly, a young child may get frustrated and stop listening. Be aware of your child's involvement by watching his reactions. You may choose to stay on one page longer if your child seems fascinated by the picture.
- With preschoolers, take the time to talk about the story together. Say "I wonder what will happen next" or ask "What do you think is happening here?" This not only stretches your child's creative thinking, but also helps her learn to take turns in conversation.
- Reread stories that have become favourites. It gives your child the opportunity to fill in words you leave out, practice phrases and rhymes that he has memorized and retell the story word for word when he wants.
FINAL TIPS ON READING TO YOUR CHILDREN
- Make books easily accessible to infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Keep them in an open bin or on a shelf near soft pillows so they can comfortably look at them whenever they want.
- Read anytime of the day, but make bedtime reading a regular routine.
- Read to your children even after they have learned to read themselves.
- Go to the library once a week and let your children select their own special books to take out.