Do any of these sound familiar?
How do I get my child to pick a book over screen time?
What if my child really dislikes reading?
My child's (and my) frustration during literacy homework makes things worse...help!
Raising little readers is a journey. Think about your child's favourite hobby. I bet it didn't start with expert level skills. Hockey starts with a whole lot of sitting on the ice looking blankly around the rink. Art starts with a bunch of scribbles on paper (or furniture!?) Swimming starts with tiny toes dipping into bath water.
What if we thought about reading much like the hobbies described above? Every child will learn in their own way, at their own pace. I have two very different readers in my home. One loves to be given a challenge to conquer. One loves to jump around a task with little attention. Both love to dive into their imaginations and curiosity. The latter is where I find common ground when raising my little readers.
All this to say that reading may not be your child's favourite pastime, and trying to teach the foundation of early literacy may be challenging, but cultivating a love of books will help bridge the gap. Books go far beyond the words on a page and provide an escape into our imaginations. If given the opportunity, most kids will not pass up an adventure through an alternate reality.
Here are some tips and tricks to make story-time engaging for any child.
Create a Reading Nook
Have your child create their own space where they feel comfortable exploring different books. A bedroom corner, a pillow tower, a backyard fort...anything goes! Give them the freedom to decorate, rearrange, and ultimately, let their imaginations run wild. Having their own reading nook sets the tone for engaging story-time sessions.
Read in Different Character Voices
Putting on different character voices while reading is sure to bring out the giggles, and guaranteed to encourage little readers to jump into the story-telling too. In our household, it works every time! By the end of the story, I bet you will have a little reader grabbing the book from you and wanting to tap into the magic.
Explore Sensory & Non-Traditional Books
There is no one-size fits all when it comes to reading, and luckily, there are so many book options to cater to different learning styles. For sensory-driven kids, try filling your bookshelf with sensory books that have pop-ups, flaps, textures and sounds. For older readers, you can try books like, Where's Waldo?, various comics and activity books based on their interests. Reading doesn't have to feel one-dimensional.
Make Your Own Narrative
Seeing words and paragraphs on a page can feel overwhelming for a little reader. Hand the control over to your child to make up their own narrative during story-time. Guided by the pictures, you will be amazed by the stories your child will imagine. Be sure to praise them like little authors and ask them questions along the way. They will feed off your engagement and excitement.
The fun doesn't have to stop after reading a book with your child. You can expand on the theme of the book by playing a game, acting out the story, doing a craft...truly anything that is relevant to the story. It can be as simple as flipping through the pages to find different objects on each page. Through expansion, your child fully engages with the story and practices reading comprehension.
Discover Real-life Stories
In the same ways we, as adults, are fascinated by true stories, so are our little readers. Try a biography picture book or dive into a book about facts. You will be surprised how these types of books will keep your little readers interested and lead to thoughtful conversations. You may learn something new too!
I've seen firsthand how these strategies have helped cultivate a love of books with my kids. The journey towards raising little readers is ongoing and I'm reminded to enjoy the moments along the way. Winnie-the-Pooh says it best:
"Rivers know this: There is no hurry. We shall get there someday."
...And I couldn't agree more, Winnie!
As always, happy reading!