As a teenage babysitter, I loved reading to the kids I watched. They would bring out a huge stack of books, and when I finished reading one they would beg me to read, “just one more.” We often spent the evening with the television off, reading story after story.
My mother read to me a lot when I was little. She says that I had memorized The Night Before Christmas at the age of three, because I had her read it to me so many times. Those early adventures in reading not only kindled my lifelong love of reading, they steered me toward becoming a writer.
Most of us who write by profession or avocation discovered a love for books and reading as young children. Sharing that love with the children in your life can make them lifelong readers and perhaps even start them on a path to becoming writers, too.
According to a publication from the United States Department of Education, reading to children helps them develop the skills they need to succeed. Children as young as six weeks of age enjoy being read to and looking at pictures, and by the age of two or three they start to develop an awareness of the written word.
Here are some suggestions from the report for reading aloud to children.
Make reading books fun and enjoyable. Sit in a comfortable place with the children near you. Let kids see that reading can be a fun activity and help them develop a love for books.
Read to children as often as you can. Look for every opportunity to read a story—every day or several times a day. Start the day with the book, and read a book at bedtime. Read before nap time or after dinner.
Teach as you read. Point out interesting facts about the story. Define unfamiliar words. Relate the book to what they are learning in school.
Discuss the book with the children. Ask them questions about the story and connections with their lives. Ask them to interpret what is happening in the story and predict what is going to happen next. Encourage them to ask questions, and continue to discuss the story after you have finished reading the book.
Read all kinds of books, both fiction and non-fiction. Books about people similar to them and their families help them relate to the characters, but also introduce them to stories about other cultures, historical stories and a variety of people.
Choose books that teach. Books can help children learn about letters and numbers, and they can also learn about behavior (such as learning how to be responsible and polite to others). Books can teach kids about how the world works by teaching science and other subjects.
Read books more than once. Children love to have their favorite books read to them again and again. Hearing a book multiple times will help them grasp things they may not have gotten the first time through, including the meanings of words and being able to recognize printed words.
If you don’t have kids or grandkids of your own around to read to, look for places where you can “borrow” some. Volunteer at your library, local schools and hospitals. Share your love of the written word with children whenever and wherever you can.