One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to cultivate the love of books. Both of us grew up with books being a great part of our lives and we remember sitting all day on the couch, finishing a book from front to back, enthralled by the stories. We knew that reading has many benefits but it wasn’t until recent years that scientists have proven reading rewires our brain and improves intelligence. Reading helps language skills, social & emotional development and improves attention span and focus amongst other benefits. And, it all starts from your child’s foundational years. Reading out loud to your kids through their early childhood and early schooling inspires them to become frequent readers in future years.
When we became mums, we decided that reading would become a daily routine in our homes. We wanted our girls to grow up having a love for print, especially in this era of social media and technological entertainment. It’s also a great way to spend quality time and bond with our children! Our children currently LOVE to read. Both Claire and Celyn will ask to read book after book together at bedtime, sometimes refusing to go to bed (well, a good problem...).
How did we achieve that? Here are some tips we’d like to share to help you build a healthy reading habit with your child at home too:
1. Make it part of your DAILY routine
We can’t emphasise this enough. If you want to cultivate a habit, you need to be consistent at it. Even 5 to 10 minutes of bedtime reading with your child can make a whole lot of difference! Everyday at bedtime, I’d ask my daugher “why don’t you choose a book to read together?" She usually comes back with 2-3 books before we go to sleep! She sees it as part of her bedtime routine.
2. Associate reading time with cuddles and fun
Both of us read daily to our children before bedtime, a time when we cosy up with pillows, enjoy cuddles and giggles with our books and quality bonding moments.
3. Make books accessible around the house
We have a lot of books in the home and we make sure all the books are accessible to our children. We love front facing bookshelves which make the book covers jump out at our children. Besides, they are also very kids friendly and our children is able to easily access and choose the books they like.
4. Visit the library
Make library runs a regular affair! There’s something magical about being surrounded by books, choosing favourite books and then checking them out to read at home, a process that is really exciting to kids.
5. Read WITH your child, instead of just TO your child
Reading doesn’t have to be restricted to the words in the books. Talk about the pictures! Ask them questions about what they see. Link things they see in the books to daily life. “Remember when we went to the zoo and saw the tiger? What sound did it make?” Make it interesting.
6. Be dramatic & silly when reading
Yes! Instead of reading in a monotonous voice, slow down so your child can hear the nuances of the words, read in a sing-song manner and add sound effects! Be dramatic and fun.
7. Introduce different types and languages of books
If your child is not interested in reading, maybe you haven’t found the right books. There are tons of fabulous books out there. Find out what are their interests. If they like animals, borrow books on animals! If they are into counting now, borrow counting books! Flap books, audio books, interactive books (some have amazing pop ups, or tabs u can push / pull) are also very effective to appeal to kinesthetic learners and audio learners. (PS: both our girls love flap books as well as textured books!)
8. Minimise screen time
Research recommends zero hours of screen time for children below two, and a maximum of 1 hour only for kids 3-5 years old. The rapid changes in screen images inhibits baby’s ability to develop an attention span, sit still and control themselves. So don’t make it a competition between the screen and books for your child’s attention.
9. Don’t give up if your child shows no interest at the moment
What we want to say to parents who are having difficulty incorporating reading in your home - don’t give up! If your child does not show interest in reading, persist. Read the story out loud and act silly / dramatic about it. “Oh, I see a lion!! He says ROAR!! Do you want to come see and roar back?” “I wonder what is behind this door? Hmm. Do you want to come open it?” “Oh dear! Humpty Dumpty has fallen off the wall! AHHHH!” Your child may be wandering around the room exploring other things, but he is listening! And if you make it seem like you are having such fun reading, he might come and join you. Remember, different kids show interest in books at different age, but the most important is exposure. If you read often enough, we guarantee that your child will gain interest sooner or later.
We hope that the above tips will inspire and help you kickstart and cultivate a consistent reading routine with your children!
Denise & Sara