2013-03-07 / Columns

Everyday Extension

Reading to your children
By Acacia Stuckle Extension Agent, Emmons and Kidder Counties acacia.stuckle@ndsu.edu • 701-254-4811

Pat a cake, pat a cake
Baker’s man!
Bake me a cake
as fast as you can.
Pat it, and prick it,
and mark it with a B.
Put it in the oven for Baby
and me!

This nursery rhyme gets recited many times throughout the week at our home. My eight-month-old daughter loves to do the actions. Truth be told, we are equally as excited to watch her do the actions.

My four-year-old recently received “I need my monster” by Amanda Noll for his birthday. It’s his newest favorite book.

From nursery rhymes to monster books, the reading list in our home is quite diverse. Reading to my children has always been important to me. I’ve witnessed firsthand how reading to your child fosters their own interest in reading books.

Sean Brotherson, NDSU Extension Family Science Specialist, provides great information about when, what and how to read with young children in NDSU Extension Publication FS-671.

When to read with young children

Start right from the cradle! Reading aloud can help calm a fussing baby or entertain a quiet one, and it can be a calming time for you, too. Use simple picture books.

Establish a regular time to read with young children each day for 10 to 30 minutes (depending on the child’s age).

Continue reading aloud even after your child learns to read.

What to read with young children

Seek out books and opportunities that are wide-ranging but also focus on a child’s specific interests. Allow children to use reading to explore what interests them. In the beginning, reading interest is much more important than reading ability.

Consult a librarian, teacher or bookstore when choosing age-appropriate reading material, or to find out more about award-winning or interesting books.

Books are good, but in addition, use signs, menus, mail, billboards, cereal boxes, recipes, calendars, cards, newspapers, children’s magazines, labels and dozens of other items.

Play word games. For example, do rhyming (e.g., fat, cat, sat, pat, rat), describing beginning and ending sounds (e.g., “M” for McDonald’s), or opposites (e.g., up/down). Do this while in the car or eating together.

Write to read. Use words and pictures to let your child write notes to you.

At family reading time, record favorite stories or rhymes for playback.

How to read with young children

Be familiar with a book before you begin reading it to children. Know the content of the book to make sure you won’t be uncomfortable with the story line or the story doesn’t surprise you.

Can children see the book clearly? This is very important for young children, especially with picture books.

Invite participation as you read. Encourage your children to describe pictures, read bits of text or guess what will happen next.

Read slowly and with expression.

Allow time to talk about the story or talk as you go, relating to your child’s style of learning. Hurrying through the story is perceived by your child as a duty, not a gift. Prepare yourself mentally by thinking of story time as an opportunity to slow down, learn and share with your child.

Have a puppet “read aloud” from a book for a change. The puppet also can turn the pages.

Expect a lot of questions and interruptions, especially from young children. Take time to answer these as you go along (being fair to all children).

Turn off the TV, computer or other distractions while you are reading.

Encourage children to value books. Provide a shelf, shoebox or basket with their names on it to keep books for safekeeping.

Enlarge the “audience” with your child’s favorite dolls and stuffed animals.

Be ready to listen to your child read to you. Even very small children enjoy making up stories to go with pictures in a book.

Model reading for your own children. Share what you read as appropriate, have reading materials available (books, newspapers, magazines) and read regularly.

Even after children learn to read, having parents and children read aloud together daily still is important. Reading together stimulates imagination, develops listening skills, and provides opportunities for positive relationships between parents and children.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go.”

—Dr. Seuss

For information about reading with young children, stop by our office to pick up NDSU Extension Publication FS-671. Please call or email me with any questions at 254-4811 or acacia.stuckle@ndsu.edu.

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