Apr 3, 2017
By Steven D. Herrington, Ph.D.
Reading prepares children for learning and doing well in school and life. A child who comes to school having had early, fun experiences with books has a big step up in areas like reading skills, attention span, and success in school. It’s never too early to start reading to children – babies start learning language before they can even speak! The tips below are sourced from Sonoma County Office of Education’s recently updated family reading guide and are meant to help you and your little one start reading together.
The first step is to make time for reading in your home. In addition to keeping books on hand and visiting the library, dedicate time every day for you and your child to sit down together to read, look at, and talk about books. It’s also key that you let your child see you as a reader—your child learns what matters by watching you. As much as possible, say yes to reading when your child asks—it helps reinforce that reading is a good way for everyone to spend time.
When families read together—and have fun doing it—they tend to read a lot. Once you’ve set up reading routines, focus on making them as fun and interactive as you can. Select books that interest your child, talk about what’s being read, and make reading time exciting by using animated voices and expressions. Don’t forget to give help when needed, using prompts like, “Can you sound it out?” or “Put your finger under the word as you say it.”
Updates in technology and interactive media are quickly changing how we communicate in our homes, offices, and schools. While technology is now part of our daily lives, experts are still researching the best and safest way for kids to use these tools. Consider putting a time limit on how much your child uses items like cellphones, TV, tablets, and computers.
Reading doesn’t just involve books. There are different sorts of games and activities you can do to help your child continue building language skills. You can play alphabet games, sing songs, and use blocks and puzzles to help teach letters to your child. Songs that emphasize rhyme and kid versions of board games like Scrabble also help develop vocabulary.
As your child’s first teacher, you play an integral role in setting the tone for his or her success in school. I hope you find these tips useful in building a tradition of reading in your family. To learn more, visit scoe.org/literacy.
Steven Herrington is Sonoma County’s superintendent of schools.