The Whole Point of Trying to Read Books to Your Child
It doesn’t matter if the world has changed so much, a library full of books just shrank to the size of an iPad – the digital age or not, your children need to read books the old-fashioned way still, and you need to be there holding their hand through it all. The surprising thing is, to read books isn’t just something that’s really grand for your children’s development – somehow it’s doesn’t leave you behind either.
I’ve always loved books like they were close friends of mine; one of my reasons to have a child actually was to be able to read Harry Potter to them one day. I guess I couldn’t wait when I had a child for the first time, a son. He was perhaps six weeks old when I thought that I had put off my dream long enough, and that this was my day. So there I sat with my little baby nestled in my arms and a copy of the touch-and-feel book Pat the Bunny, hoping that all the colorfulness would attract him, and get him to participate. All that happened in the end was that he liked the way I made cooing sounds reading to him, and he could try to bite the edge of the cover. While that might have been kind of a false start, I kept up with it for a whole two years; and now, this is one of the our favorite things to do together.
Of course everyone understands that helping children with books as early as possible helps them with better development by the time they get to school; but it is possible to see that there are certain indirect and unmeasurable areas where your child would benefit too. A child who reads can help several key areas in his growing brain really get in touch with one another. Reading helps bring the critical thinking areas and the language areas of the brain to all work together. You will find lots of useful information in the book A Parent’s Guide to Reading to Your Young Child, that will also help you see how in a world of ADHD-afflicted children, reading as early as possible helps your child focus his attention on one thing and one thing only.
The mistake that several of my friends make in their efforts to read to their child is that they give up as soon as the child is five or so, and can read by himself. The point is, parents are not supposed to be reading to their children just to help them at an age that they can’t read. The reason they need to do this is to give their child a secure place that they can hear, listen, think and read your expressions to see what the best way to think about the plot of the story would be. The older your child gets and the more able to read on his own he is, the more you need to get involved. You can help your child actually find the kinds of books you know he would like or should; did you realize that most children who don’t read complain that they don’t, only because they can’t find books that interest them?
Can you have a literary discussion of the story with your child once the reading is done? You have to understand that unless your little baby is planning to get a head start on a graduate literature program, you would be best served by letting things progress at their own pace. But then, a conversation doesn’t just stop at discussing a story – it progresses into attempts to break the characters down, and understand contexts. When the character in the story decides to steal when no one is looking, for instance, you can ask your child what he thinks about the situation. However, it would be really sensible to make reading look nothing like a lesson. You don’t want to ask a child to give you a “word list” of the new words he learned that day – or use terminology that would be more at home in a literary discussion.
It can be thoroughly fun to read a page together, and make comments back and forth on what just happened. Make sure that you don’t forget how important choosing the right book is. Picking a book comes easily these days with the dozens of children’s book clubs there are about on the Internet; and make sure that you read the book a bit beforehand, and rehearse how you plan to make things sound. Some books have too many characters altogether, and may not really be great to read out loud; once you rehearse and the get the right idea on how to help your child’s interest, there can be little that can go wrong.