Your child’s journey to developing a love of reading begins at home and flourishes even before they enter a classroom. From birth, children are exposed to skills and language which prepare them for learning how to read. This means that long before their reading journey begins, their early years play a crucial part in fostering a desire to pick up a book.
Here are five simple ways to encourage your child to become a devoted reader before they reach the age of five:
Talking to your child, before they can even speak, will aid in their learning of different language and communication skills. Before children can develop as readers, they need to be confident at talking and expressing themselves. By talking to your child, and introducing extended vocabulary, you are increasing their comprehension of the wider world. This is an important skill required for your child to progress as a reader. Providing a rich language environment is a solid foundation for supporting their ongoing reading success. To do this, you could point out and discuss new things in their surrounding environment, while asking open-ended questions.
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- Read and reread your child’s favourite book
Before children actually learn to read, they learn to recognise pictures, how to hold a book and how to turn a page. Reading your child’s favourite story with them on a regular basis will help them to develop these essential first skills necessary to confidently explore books. Your child will soon learn that the pictures and story never change and they will grow to become a confident storyteller, naturally evolving their story-related comprehension and expressive vocabulary. Once they are orally retelling the story, your child will begin to simultaneously point to pictures and follow words. In turn they will be expanding their ideas and igniting their imagination.
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- Let the children choose
Most children do judge a book by its cover and parents should use this to their advantage. Educational philosopher, Paulo Freire believed that teaching and learning should be two-way, and that children are co-creators of their own knowledge. This view should be central to the idea of engaging your child as a passionate reader. Allowing them to choose a book with you will lead them to develop a sense of ownership and to become a voracious reader. Why not visit the children's library at Dubai Public Library, The Old Library at its new location in the Gold and Diamond Park, or even the vast Kinokuniya book store in Dubai Mall?
Read more: 'Abu Dhabi is opening a new library just for children - and it looks amazing'
- Take a trip to the theatre
The theatre is an invaluable and enriching experience for any age. Taking your child to the theatre to experience their favourite story come to life has many benefits. It opens up their mind to new vocabulary, stretches their imagination and transports them into the character’s world, unlocking new emotions and differing perspectives. Choosing a story that is familiar to your child, will help them to make crucial links between new vocabulary and its intended meaning.
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- Build a reading fort
It is important to celebrate reading as one of life’s gifts and not to sell it as a mundane task. A great way to do this is to build a reading fort where they can disappear and let their imagination run wild. Stacking it high with their favourite stories, magazines and non-fiction books will encourage your child to retell the words in their own voice. It is important to include your child in the process of building their special reading place. Ask them what theme they would like to follow: a pirate cave, spaceship or magical garden? Always work with your child’s personal interest to ensure that engagement is maximised.
Charlotte Brookes has an MA in Early Years and Childhood Studies and is an Early Years teacher at North London Collegiate School, Dubai.
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