Mem Fox is perhaps one of Australia’s most renowned children’s authors, she is one of my most favourite, which started with my love of Possum Magic that I received as a child. I still treasure that book, but I also love Time for Bed, where is the Green Sheep, and Boo to a Goose. Her new book Tiny Star was recently released and seeing Mem in the media a lot reminded me of where I got my love of reading from, and from whom I discovered why reading to children is so important.
It is easy to get caught up in wanting your child to learn to read before school, but this isn’t what early literacy is about, it is more about your child developing a relationship with books and reading. Here are a few tips on reading to your child and helping them discover a love of books:
How young is too young?
I am often asked, how old does my child need to be to get a library card, or when can I start reading to my child? The answer is simply they are never to young! I encourage parents to read to their babies from the day they are born, because children’s brains are like sponges and they soak up everything in those early years. It may seem like a sleeping baby is not taking a whole lot in, but they are soaking up the rhythm of language and building a positive relationship with the books you are reading to them.
Making time to read
One of the most common phrases I hear is that there is no time to read to my child, and I get it, life is busy between work, school runs and afternoon activities. I always suggest making it part of routine such as at the breakfast table, when they are putting their shoes on of a morning, or five minutes before bed instead of tv watching.
Lead by example
Children learn by example and there are simple ways to model reading as a positive experience:
- Taking the time to read for yourself.
- Having an hour set aside on an evening where you read as a family, either together or reading your own books.
- Visit the library together and borrow books not only for the children but also yourself.
Children love repetition, and it helps them learn and understand language and how it works. You may be tired of reading the same book over and over, but your child’s brain is helping them master new skills and comprehension of words and language.
Don’t stop reading picture books
I read picture books long after it was probably considered societally normal for my age, but I loved them and still do. I also read fiction, non-fiction and listened to audio books and was always ‘caught’ reading when I was meant to be sleeping. I am continually inspired by picture book stories and illustrations, and don't believe there should be an 'age limit' on who can read them.
Just have fun!
Reading is not meant to be a chore, and while I recognise that some people will have struggles with reading, it doesn’t mean that we can’t make it FUN! It doesn’t have to be a book your child reads, they can read comics, a newspaper, magazine article, the back of a cereal packet, listen to an audio book, or read the directions for a recipe.
Let's get children reading because books are full of wonderful adventures that will fuel your child's imagination!