The first time you read to your baby, you don’t quite know what to expect. Neither does he. It’s a great idea to set the stage for your reading ritual and establish a routine.
Emma Walton Hamilton’s book ‘Raising Bookworms’ talks about the biggest hurdle in raising enthusiastic readers today. She says that it’s not external distractions such as television or video games we should worry about the most but the fact that reading has come to be associated with ‘work’ and not pleasure.
Creating positive and pleasant associations with books and reading is the most crucial step in raising readers.
The time to begin associate reading with pleasure is when children are young. How does one create an environment conducive to reading for pleasure?
It starts with setting the stage for reading.
Creating a good feeling about reading involves setting aside a time of the day and a little place for you and your child to share this wonderful experience and get the most out of it.
Pick a good time to read. Empty tummies and fussy babies don’t make great candidates for a chirpy read-aloud session. A baby is most alert and receptive when his basic needs have been met. So, pick a time when your baby isn’t hungry or sleepy and is open to stimulation. Take your cue when he coos or tries to make eye contact with you, or, if he’s older, when he seems alert and eager to interact.
Get physical. Pick your baby up and cuddle up with him on a rocking chair with a book, or pull up a chair next to his crib. If he’s a toddler, sit down next to him and begin by talking to him. Reading to young children starts with a conversation. Slowly. Deliberately. Introduce the words ‘book’ and read’ to him. Asking, “Shall we read a book now?” is a good start.
Pick a good spot. One that gets enough light, preferably of the natural kind. A rocking chair by a window, a couple of cushions or even a comfy corner of your bed or couch will work just fine. Be sure to pick a place that’s relatively quiet and where you can avoid distractions. It’s better to stay away from spaces where there’s a lot of other activity going on. Avoid reading in a room where the TV is on or other kids are talking or playing. And here’s the big one - leave behind, turn off or ignore your cell phone and other gadgets for those few minutes.
Junior, meet book. Introduce your child to the book. Show it to her. Let her touch it, feel it. She’s probably going to want to chew it, taste it or crumple it depending on her age. So, choose a textured cloth book or a clunky board book that fits in her hand. For older children, a picture book about something that interests them is sure to get their attention. Dinosaurs, ghosts, rocks, space, trains - it shouldn’t be too hard to find a book about something your child is currently into.
Let her explore. Don’t expect to read the book from cover to cover the very first time. The idea is to get your child to start feeling good about reading. Allow her to feel comfortable around books and explore at her own pace. Hug her, hold her, point to pictures, talk in a soft, loving tone, make eye contact, relax.
And now that you’ve set the stage, you’re ready to start reading to your child.