Expert tips on when to start reading to your child…!
The precious reading time is something that all parents crave as it fosters a deep bond between the parent and child. And when it comes to developing a love for learning in your child, you should start early.
This would give them a strong foundation for their later years of childhood.
Usually, parents put off the reading ritual to a later age, which results in a lack of interest in self-learning. The quizzical aspect, here, is the riddle whether it is conducive (if, at all) to read to a young baby if they aren’t even able to comprehend what is being read to them!
So, let’s untie this knot of curiosity by starting with the basics…
Why “reading” is Conducive to your baby?
One of the best ways to develop a sense of curiosity and a love for learning in your child is to read to them. Even if your baby is too young to really comprehend the complexities of language, you would appreciate the nurturing experience (involving a lot of cuddles, feelings of security, and attentiveness).
You can start with picture stories and slowly progress as the child learns more. Not only will you begin to understand your child’s personality better, but it is also a great way to spend some quality time with your child.
Research reveals that the more you conversate with your baby, the better would be his/her language skills. So, reading happens to be a crowned activity in the baby realm, but…
When to really jumpstart the “reading” expedition?!
Well, this is a question that’s probably confusing you. As parents, we have all struggled with questions relating to ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘when’ to start with, and how fast to go.
Exactly what age does a child begin to understand the story and what is going on with the book?
Well, it’s actually sooner than most parents think.
While most people recommend reading to your child as they turn 5-6 months old; you’ll find ample research that supports reading to your baby prenatal…!
Most parents would initially feel a bit silly and giddy while reading to their baby (prenatally). However, studies show that reading not only reinforces the mother-child bond but also has a substantial soothing effect.
Something “central” to the ‘reading’ activity…
Undisputedly when your child is 5-6 months old, they are at the peak of their language learning process and they pick up many different concepts.
There are different stages that you should consider when reading to your child and each stage requires different types of books.
It is important that you go according to a pace that suits your child and put quality learning over quantity. As with all learning, the student is only as good as the teacher! So, giving quality time to read to your child will help them develop a strong personality as well as a love for learning.
Different stages of learning according to the child’s age:
Well, it may come as a surprise, but you can pick and read quite complex and advanced level books to your baby in the prenatal stage of development. This is exciting, feels silly or unreal but is an established fact. Your baby will benefit tremendously from the complexity and diversity of language.
Birth to 6 months:
This is the time when your baby is developing the visual faculties. So, it would be a good choice to go with books containing big and brightly colored pictures. At this stage, your child would appreciate the very fact that you are reading to him/her. This is because at this stage reading is primarily about your tone and cuddles the infant receives from you.
This is an exciting time to get on the ‘reading’ train. A baby of 6-7 months will begin to grasp certain concepts and they will start to understand the meaning of certain words. They are also at a stage when they need to be in the company of their parents to develop self-confidence and basic skills.
While your baby will not understand a full story at 6 months old, they will understand a lot of your hand gestures, voice tone, etc. The best books for this stage would be the ones focusing on one character on each page.
You may act out and exaggerate expressions as children are learning super-fast at this stage.
13 months to 18 months:
At this stage, your baby will be able to understand the meaning of basic words and will be able to link them with pictures. One thing to keep in mind is that you should not shift to normal pages just yet as they are at a stage where they put everything in their mouth.
Try to read books with lots of illustrations and try and involve them more in the reading process.
You can ask them different questions to see if they know the meaning of certain words and whether they can link them with the pictures. At this stage, large board books are perfect as they are more interactive and are great for stimulating your child’s interest in reading.
Ask them questions and invite their say!
You may start with simple questions, such as, ‘Can you see the car?’ or ‘Whoa! What’s that?!’.
19 months to 24 months:
Your toddler now makes sense of the text that is being read to him/her. So, you’ll be receiving a lot of questions and an attachment to a particular book. Go with it! Your child may even insist on repeating the same words, gestures, etc. This helps with the overall language comprehension and it’s an amazing experience for them.
2 years to 3 years:
At this stage, your child will have developed a sense of what they like to read and may select their favorite stories more often. They can understand emotions more clearly, which means that you can read stories with a bit of emotion and humor.
Children at this stage like rhymes quite a lot, so try and look for books that contain both rhymes and humor. While your child will be able to grasp more complex topics at this stage, it’s better to let them choose which topic they like.
This is where you can see their interest in learning about specific topics and it shows exactly what they are interested in. At 3 years of age, a child will preferably choose stories that represent a character that they like, and they will stick with these stories.
Try to find simple books that are based on the same characters so that your child can start connecting different concepts and personalities.
How to make “reading” more fun for your child?
With all being said about why and when; we are left with the how. So here are a few tips that would help you make the whole activity all the more exciting.
#1. Hand gestures
When you communicate, you deliver the message with your gestures more than with what you say. The same goes for reading to your child. When you read to your child, hand gestures and body language play an important role in stimulating their interest in the activity and helping them understand what is being said.
Children are naturally more observant and pick up things by looking at how you act in different situations.
When you are reading to your child, you should try and make yourself more interesting by explaining through hand gestures. For example, if the story is about an airplane, you can make a “flying” gesture with your hand to illustrate what is being said. This plays an important role in teaching your child different reactions and movements and it helps in making association with the text or pictures in the book.
Depending on which stage your child is on, the tone of your voice when reading is more important then what you are saying. It’s unlikely that your child understands all the words, or even what the story is about.
However, they can listen to the tone of your voice and comprehend the emotions by forming meaningful connections. Try and vary your tone according to the plot of the story. For example, you can express amazement at a certain object to stimulate their interest in it. This helps develop curiosity and makes the reading process much more entertaining for your child.
#3. Supporting material
Another thing that many parents often overlook is the need for supporting material to help the child understand certain concepts. For example, if there is a picture of an apple in the story, then you should try and get a real apple to illustrate the meaning to your child.
This makes reading more interactive and practical and it helps develop important concepts in your child. It is a great way to improve their vocabulary, especially for younger children.
Unlike adults, children love to read the same book over and over. You do not need to worry if they do this, as it is a natural part of their behavior. Most children will actually start understanding the story after a few times and they get more control over the vocabulary by repeating the same words.
You’ll notice that they will get excited as they start expecting the events in the story as it unfolds. Repetition is a great way to get them to learn and understand the story and widen their vocabulary. It also helps build a solid foundation, so there’s no need to worry if your child is requesting the same story every time.
So, kids appreciate ‘consistency’, but don’t we all do? Well, yes!
Children learn from consistency and thrive in it. Try and set a specific time to read to your child and continue with this every day. This will introduce them to a formal learning method, and they will take reading as another part of their daily activities.
Reading is an experience that a child treasures and it becomes one of the most amazing moments of their innocent lives. By reading to your child early on, you are helping develop their reading foundation and love for learning.
Always be patient with them and try to make reading a fun activity so that they develop an interest in books that will last a lifetime.
So, keep going on this journey, and although the road may get a bit bumpy at times, it’s well worth the effort!