Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Raising Readers: They're never too young

My oldest child turns five next weekend, so I'm taking a few posts to look into the importance of early literacy.

My second-born, Ellie, will turn three this summer. She is surprisingly very different from her older sister (which I suppose is a good thing!) -- brown hair and brown eyes (Abby is blonde & blue), naturally goofy (Abby tends to be more serious), needs less sleep overall (they both dropped their naps this spring), and ever since Ellie was an infant we've said that while Abby never stops talking, Ellie never stops moving.

Playing "library". No I did not prompt them.

Yet even though their looks and personality are different, one thing between them is the same: they both love books. And I firmly believe it's because books have been part of their lives since they were both infants.

One year old. We've gone through 3 copies
of that book -- Goodnight Gorilla.

Yes it's difficult to read to a baby, they seem more interested in tearing pages and eating the books than what's actually happening in the story. But it's more about exposure -- teaching children that books are fun -- than anything. What do you think a child will grow up thinking about books if she is constantly yelled at and scolded for not handling them "right"?

Waiting for me to finish up at the library.

That's not to say we should let our babies rip pages out of every book on the shelf. We do need to teach them to be gentle. Just like we teach them how to eat. How many cute pictures do we take of our kids with mashed carrots spread across their face? And oh how quickly that stage passes...

Post-bath reading, 15 months old

Here are a few ways we can encourage a love of books with even our littlest readers:

Board books are amazing.
Whoever invented board books is a hero of early literacy. Made from thick, cardboard-like "paper", board books are the best kind of book for babies. It is nearly impossible to rip the pages out (unless it's a lift-the-flap board book). Many of our favorite stories are also available in board book form (Goodnight Moon, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Dr. Seuss, etc.). And check your local library -- they might already be a bit beat up, but who can turn down free books that you don't have to store forever?

2.5 years old, "reading" to her baby.
She actually has this book memorized.

Keep more important books out of reach.
Once baby is big enough to crawl and pull up and walk on her own, we know enough to baby-proof the cupboards and doors and staircases. But what about your bookshelf? Keep those board books within easy reach (so she can learn that those books are for her!) and keep your older kids' books higher up on the shelf.

Buy books at garage sales.
Yes I sell brand-new books through Usborne and yes I worked at a library for two years. But I shop at garage sales too. Two weeks before my first daughter was born I came away from a garage sale with a set of board books about animals for $1 that were already well-loved. And both of my kids have loved on them even more, scratching at the fake fur and pulling out the cat whiskers and ripping the binding. Sometimes you've just gotta have those kind of books that you can REALLY not worry about.

Share books with them.
Reading aloud to children has been called the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for success in reading. I'll share more about this in my next post (when I talk about my oldest daughter), but I want to encourage you that no matter how boring it may be to read the same book over and over, or how long your day has been with the kids and you-just-want-them-to-go-to-bed-so-you-can-have-PEACE-and-QUIET... still snuggle and READ TO THEM. Even if it's only one book, make reading aloud part of the bedtime routine. Read a single board book when they're little. I was surprised how well my second-born would sit when she was really young, while I read a picture book that was really more for her older sister. Even now, at age almost-5 and almost-3, I'll sometimes limit them to choosing one book each (and pray that they're short books... :) ) when Rocky and I have had a long day.

Almost 2 years old

I mentioned earlier that both of my girls have pretty much given up their naps. But I still insist on rest time every afternoon. Most days I'll peak in on Ellie and find her sitting on a pile of books in the corner, paging through one, and even attempting to tell the story out loud for herself. Not bad for a 2 year old. That, my friends, is a sight that warms this bookworm's heart.

And yes I'm going to throw in a little pitch for some of Usborne's best-selling books for babies. :)

With over 30 books to choose from, ranging from animals to vehicles to angels and fairies, there is something here for everyone. These sturdy, touchy-feely board books feature bold colors and thick black lines for little eye development.

An I Spy sort of book that has thick board book pages, this one is very interactive as you ask your child to find things like the red car, the penguin with a hat, and the circle-shaped window.

These playbooks (others in the series too) are great for learning about textures and tracing lines - things that will develop even more as a child learns to hold a pen and write.

I am an Independent Consultant with Usborne Books & More. Purchasing these and other books through the links above will pay me a commission. Usborne Publishing Ltd. has no connection with this blog and does not sponsor or support its content.

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