(BPT) - Reading opens the door to a lifelong love of learning, imagination and adventure. When parents instill a love of reading in their children from an early age, it increases their oral language skills and vocabulary knowledge, which helps to build a solid foundation for later reading ability.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ recent 2022 Nation’s Report Card, reading scores for students across the country are down following years of disrupted learning during the pandemic. Research indicates early literacy skills in the critical years from birth to age five are predictive of a child’s literacy skills through fifth grade and beyond.
Focusing on literacy during early childhood can help provide children with the skills needed to be a successful reader throughout their life. In addition, focusing on key early literacy skills during the preschool years can help parents and teachers identify potential indicators of learning challenges so early intervention can be provided. Beyond developing early language and literacy skills, reading may also increase a child’s ability to understand the emotions of others — a critical life skill that leads to empathy and compassion.
Dr. Maria Shaheen, senior director of early childhood education at Primrose Schools®, The Leader in Early Education and Care®, provides five tips to help parents encourage a lasting love of reading in their children during National Reading Month and all year long:
1) Introduce language as early as possible – even before birth. Oral language is the foundation of all other early literacy skills and helps build a child’s vocabulary. Speaking and reading to your baby during pregnancy establishes voice recognition and promotes cognitive development. The more words parents introduce their child to, the better. Parents should talk about the meanings of words and use them in everyday conversation to ensure children understand them.
2) Make reading a regular part of bedtime routine. Reading books should be a favorite bedtime activity. With daily “tuck-in” stories and snuggling together at bedtime, infants and young children begin to associate reading with comfort, warmth and security. During the first year of life, sturdy board books with bright illustrations are easiest to handle and invite participation. Books with familiar subjects, such as babies and animals, resonate since babies respond to faces and eyes before other stimuli.
3) Offer a wide variety of stories. This can include nursery rhymes, poetry, nonfiction and fiction from many genres, as well as books that celebrate a wide range of cultures and diverse characters. Parents can ask lots of questions, act silly and try out different character voices to make reading dramatic and engaging. Vivid illustrations, along with rhyming and repetitive text, will encourage lively dialogue.
4) Help children discover the magic of books for themselves. Books can help young children understand their own feelings when characters face similar life events, so parents should pick topics their children may be curious about. In the first five years of life, children form their self-identity, which makes it important that they see themselves reflected in the world around them, including the books at home and in their classrooms. One example found in Primrose classrooms is, "I'm Like You, You're Like Me: A Book About Understanding and Appreciating Each Other" by Cindy Gainer.
5) Make reading a fun learning experience. Parents can reinforce stories through related activities. Preschool children can create books with their own stories about things they do with their families. Parents can encourage their children to write a card to a family member or special friend and have them read it aloud. Many children memorize their favorite texts and pretend to read, which is a wonderful sign that they are identifying their favorite books and building confidence. Parents can also play silly word games that help children play with sounds, such as rhyming games or tongue twisters.
“Reading now pays dividends later. Starting a reading routine throughout daily life models for children the importance of reading as a way to gain information and valuable life skills, complete everyday activities, explore new worlds, encourage imagination and have fun,” Dr. Shaheen says.
To learn more about how parents can nurture a love of reading for their children, visit PrimroseSchools.com.