You didn’t mean to stop daily reading to your child. Maybe a shift in your work hours impacted bedtime reading. Or maybe an older child’s sport schedule interfered with the regular reading time. It could have been that you were worn out too many days in a row and were too tired to keep it up. What’s done is done, but now is the time to get back on track. One of the best ways to help your child do well in their future schooling is by reading regularly to them.
Many studies show that children who were read to consistently through the preschool years experienced increased thinking skills and advanced communication skills. They also gained the reading skills that one would expect. The benefits of parent-child reading continue through the child’s school years. In addition to improved academic performance, parent-child reading increases the emotional bonding between them. In other words, reading together regularly gives parents a closer relationship with their child.
To get restarted with reading and keep it up, it has to fit into your schedule and with your energy level. Most people think that parent-child reading must happen at bedtime. Not so! It can be the reward for being ready to go in the morning, or the calming cuddle when the parent first gets home. You can fit reading into the few minutes in the car while you wait for the older child to exit their school or sport activity. Remember too, that preschool reading doesn’t involve much time—most children only attend for five minutes, others maybe to ten.
If you don’t have them already, gather some good children’s book. Especially for younger children, look for books with few words and nice pictures. Some children prefer books with photos and information about real things, others want silly, fanciful books. Children usually can’t sit through entire stories with plots, but you can use these books to tell the story in your own words and talk about the pictures. Your library should also include Mother Goose and other rhyming books.
Most of the time the child should select the book. However, parents are able to use story time to teach new subjects and encourage good behaviors. For example, if the family is going to move soon, pick up a few books on moving. There are tons of books about becoming the big sister or brother. There are books on starting school and traveling. There are books about good behavior. Children truly learn from these. It makes parenting so much easier.
There is no sense in feeling guilty if you’ve let parent-child reading slip out of your routine. Simply figure out how you can fit it back into your schedule and get started again. By doing so you are giving your child the gift of school success.
Evelyn Satterlee, M.Ed.
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