In my job as Youth Services Assistant Manager at Craighead County Jonesboro Public Library, parents often ask advice on how to get their children to read more often or to help build their literacy skills. While I am always happy to recommend books and library resources, the best advice that I can give a parent is to read to their child during their early years. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, early experiences with books and reading help to form connections in an infant’s developing brain that build language and literacy skills. This encourages them to become life-long learners and prepares them for school when the time comes.
It’s never too early to start reading to your child. Infants as early as three months will be able to react to your facial expressions and imitate the sounds you make as you read to them. As they grow, babies will become more interested in touching or grabbing books while you read together. Your child may show more interest in the pictures and want to linger on pages and pictures that they really enjoy. You may not make it all the way through a book, especially in the early months, before your child loses interest, but that’s ok! Babies and young children benefit from the early exposure to language skills such as seeing how you follow the words from left to right on a page. Letting little ones help to turn the pages is great for fine motor development. Asking and answering questions during a story helps your child develop conversational skills. Allowing children to retell the story to you helps create connections in the brain and practice language skills. Your child will only benefit from their exposure to books and reading.
Making time to read to children can sometimes be hard for busy parents and caregivers. Reading is not just for bedtime! Keep a book or two in the diaper bag to pull out and share when waiting at the doctor’s office or in line at the store. Read while your child is eating or bathing. Reading a book can sometimes settle down a child who is resistant to naps. Any time can be reading time! In our next blog, we’ll tell you about a free program to track and encourage reading before kindergarten. Until then, happy reading!