The love of reading is important for all children, but many find it challenging or unpleasant. EMMA MCKINNEY shares ideas to encourage reading
Many people think that you should only start reading stories to your child once they go to school. We would like to encourage you to start reading to them as young as possible. The more children hear stories, songs, rhymes and poems, the better their language development will be. This will help them with their reading when they are older.
Reading isn’t only about being able to understand text in books, rather it starts with incidental reading. This includes being able to identify logos such as ‘Pick n Pay’ through looking at their logo. Many pre-schools and early childhood development (ECD) centres use and encourage this pre-reading skill.
For example, each child is given an image of an object such as a picture of a ball or a star and this is placed on their locker rather than their written name. This helps them identify their locker before they are able to read text or can accompany the child’s name before they can read and identify it.
If you live close to a public library, make a fun outing where you and your child find books that interest them. If you are not sure which books are appropriate, ask one of the librarians, or the parents of children in a similar age or ability group as your child for suggestions.
Not all families can afford to buy new books; however, there are many second-hand bookshops and charity shops that sell wonderful books. Also, you are helping to fund their projects.
Creating a relaxed environment can also help some children. You can make a special ‘book- nook’ or reading space in your home or garden if you are able. If not, you can make a space special by sitting on cushions or a carpet, or even just getting your child to sit on your lap and turn the pages.
Don’t focus too much attention on the writing in the beginning. Rather look at the cover and the pictures on each page. As they look through each page ask them questions relating to the pictures such as “What do you see?” or “What do you think is going to happen next?” and so on. Discuss the characters, count objects, point to all the red things, etc.
Keep this time as relaxed as possible. If you are anxious or keep correcting your child, this may make things more difficult. Depending on the age and level of your child, you might like to run your finger under each word as you read so that they can see that you read from the left to the right of the page, start at the top and make your way to the end of the page.
Find something to praise your child about (“I can see you really tried hard to read that difficult word, well done!”). If you start to see your child becoming restless or losing interest, take a break or try again the following day.
Try to develop a good reading routine, finding a time that works best for your family such as just before bed or in the afternoon after sport. Most importantly, try make reading as fun and as unpressured as possible.
Dr Emma McKinney is a lecturer at the University of the Western Cape.
She is also the owner of Disability Included, a company specialising in disability research, children, and employment of adults with disabilities.