Library Column for April 1, 2022

@ Your Library

No fooling! It is a very good idea to read aloud to children every single day! Reading aloud to children helps their brains develop and helps them develop the skills needed to be prepared when they enter school. Reading aloud doesn’t have to take much time and doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are some specific guidelines for each of the first five years of a child’s life.

For the first year of life, babies just want to hear familiar voices, so anything can be read to them, but they will particularly enjoy stories with set rhythms, books with simple bright pictures of familiar objects – especially babies. As they begin to chatter and talk, invite them to repeat rhymes, words and phrases, encourage them to join in and have them moo like a cow, woof like the dog and honk like a car. They also learn through touch and taste, so board books are good for this age because they will want to put books in their mouths.

Toddlers are toddling, their brains are focused on developing gross-motor skills, so reading aloud may need to occur while they move around. Definitely encourage them to sit on or beside you as you read, but recognize the focus at this time is more to not lose word connections already made. Toddlers are discovering feelings and learning to pay attention so find books with characters handling emotions, common experiences and simple plots. This can be a great chance to expose them to new experiences and words through reading. Toddlers are particularly fond of hearing the same book over and over and over again. Again, it is part of their learning.

Two to three year olds are beginning to understand the world and this is a great time to introduce simple concepts like size, color, shape and even numbers and letters. Talk about all the different things you see in books. Ask them to find the blue balloon or the red cow or to count the kittens. They love books about daily routines like washing hands, eating, bathing, using the toilet. They can also begin to retell stories. Retell a favorite story with puppets and then encourage them to tell the story back to you using the puppets (which can be as simple as plastic spoons you draw faces on).

Three – five year olds have vivid imaginations. This allows you to read fairytales and other stories with animals that behave like humans. Ask them questions about what they’ve heard. Can they remember the first thing the character did? You can also build their listening skills and attention spans by reading longer picture books or try a chapter book read over several sessions and together summarize what has happened so far. They can also join you on repeated refrains and predictable rhymes. Run your finger along the text you are reading, encouraging them to point out letters and words they recognize.

But most of all, have fun! Find stories, characters and books that you enjoy!

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