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Learning to read is a skill every child must master to advance in school and in life. Over the years, many parents have asked me when they should begin reading to their child. My answer is always the same, at once.
I read to my children before they were born. I was a tad overzealous, but it helped me prepare for the traditional bedtime story.
After my kids were born, I read them simple board books and pointed to the pictures while identifying the objects on the page. I also shared family photos to support facial recognition, and the names associated with them.
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As they grew, I made environmental print books from old cereal boxes, Dunkin' Donuts cartons and Burger King bags. Environmental print is the writing we see in our daily lives; examples include street signs and logos for products and stores.
Most children can "read" the STOP sign and the McDonald's or Wal-Mart logos. When your child does this applaud their efforts and nurture their growing skills by "reading" more environmental print together.
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So, why should you read to your child?
1. It builds vocabulary.
A well-rounded vocabulary is a precursor for reading achievement. Children with a wide vocabulary better comprehend stories read to them. This sets the stage for future independent reading.
The average two-year-old is expected to learn 50 words, compare that with a three-year-old who should know 200 words a year later, and you begin to understand why vocabulary development is so crucial. An excellent way to expand your child‘s vocabulary is to read, sing, and play.
2. It teaches fluency.
Fluency is the skill of reading a text smoothly, accurately, and with a meaningful expression. When children listen to stories, they internalize the reader‘s inflection.
These vocal nuances teach children the expressions good readers need: like when to pause at a comma, when to stop at a period, and how to modulate their voices for question marks and exclamation points.
3. It develops a lifelong love of reading.
Reading provides a safe atmosphere to discuss the topic of a book. During these conversations, parents can ask their children questions or engage in meaningful dialogue.
This interaction will strengthen a child's communication and comprehension skills. Ultimately, these positive moments will create pleasant memories and foster a confident attitude toward reading that will last.
4. It fosters writing development.
Good readers make good writers. A youngster who listens to stories gains a strong awareness of the concepts of print.
Concepts of print are an elementary set of skills that beginning readers require and may include the following characteristics: distinguishing text from illustrations, demonstrating left-to-right directionality upon viewing a text, or identifying individual letters within a word.
Children who have these skills understand that print conveys a message that has meaning. They also comprehend the ideas of letter recognition and letter sounds. In tandem, these qualities help children learn to write.
5. It creates positive relationships.
Reading is a wonderful way to bring people together. When children learn correct reading behaviors, they can listen to and enjoy stories in school.
After a large group read-aloud, my students flocked to the library and engaged in spirited conversations about the characters in the books I had read to them. Many classroom friendships began this way.
The joy and creativity that reading brought to my children and my students was a wonderful thing to witness. All it took was a little time, a little laughter, and lots and lots of books.
Books for young readers:
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What books do you read to your children?