As parents, we all want to raise children who become life-long readers...but how do we actually achieve that? I've spent over 10 years applying the techniques below, and the result is that hundreds of children I've taught are now confirmed bookworms!
By taking these three easy steps in the early years of your child’s life, you're setting them on the right path. A love of books not only means that your child will gain an infinite source of solace and learning, but also that they see the value in the printed word rather than solely having an interest in screen-based entertainment. This is especially relevant in their younger years since it's increasingly challenging to monitor inappropriate online content.
The sneaky bonus part? Creating book-loving children will free some time up for parents to relax with a coffee, or curl up with a good (grown-up) book themselves!
As you’d imagine, creating children who love books begins with lots of exposure to books and stories from as early as possible, so reading to them daily is Step 0!
Step 1: Story Time
Familiarise yourself with local libraries and find out what days they have Story Time for their youngest age group. Being a member of more than one library can be worthwhile too, for variety of both Story Times and book selections. Many libraries also have play areas and beanbags, making an outing to the library a perfect activity for a rainy day. Some local independent bookshops run Story Time as well; I run one on Tuesday mornings at The Leaf, a gorgeous bookshop in Ashburton – drop in and see me sometime soon! These can be terrific if you’d like to purchase some new books for home at the same time – independent bookshop staff are often full of excellent advice and suggestions.
Step 2: Laminate!
Now that you’re reading regularly and exposing your children to stories, with very little effort you can make one simple story into a whole morning of involved play for your toddlers and preschoolers! My best piece of advice is: buy a laminator. Very inexpensive A4 laminators are available at Officeworks, and will be a brilliant investment lasting well into your child’s school years.
Step 3: Bring Your Book Child's Favourite Books To Life
Head online and let the fun begin! A quick search will reveal that the internet is full of material relating to most classic picture books, such as play dough mats, memory games, sorting activities, tracing pages and so much more - for example, this page contains links to different activities based on Eric Carle's wonderful book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. If you can’t find material specific to a favourite book, try searching for the theme – underwater, monsters, outer space… Add descriptions to your search such as preschool activities, printables, games, or play dough mats, and you’re sure to find a huge selection of resources to choose from.
Laminating activities means that your children can return to them time and time again, just like a great book. You might like to choose a theme for the week – search together in the library (or ask the librarian) for some books on one topic (food, for instance) and whip up some quick activities to go along with the books, which your child can revisit throughout the week. You could find play dough mats encouraging the children to make particular fruits or vegetables to place on a plate, or a tracing page with different shapes to outline with whiteboard markers (both great activities for fine motor skill development!). Once the activities are done, simply wipe the laminated cards down and store them for another time.
Conclusion: A Lifetime of Happiness
When you foster a love of books and reading, your children receive a priceless gift that they will appreciate for the rest of their lives. Indeed, according to a study conducted by the University of Liverpool, 41% of adults find reading to be a better cure for their everyday worries than a night out with friends. By investing time in making simple literacy-related activities at home, you're not just giving your children a precious gift...you're also buying yourself a little time to recharge!