Learn how to read to children in ways that spark interest and promote greater learning at every age.
If you have come this far, you are certainly interested in encouraging the habit of reading at home because you know how important it is for children’s development. In a world with a tidal wave of stimuli and overexposure to information and digital screens, stopping to read a children’s book means creating a valuable magical moment for the family.
This is for families with children of all ages: from toddlers to teenagers. However, each age group has its characteristics and relationship with reading. So it is essential to know how to make it enjoyable at each stage and how to create learning opportunities from books.
Next, you will have a better understanding of the benefits of reading and learn about tips on how to read for children of different ages.
The habit of reading during childhood
It is no secret that encouraging the habit of reading during childhood brings many benefits, both for the child’s cognitive development and for the family’s daily life.
Reading strengthens the bond between the child and those who read to them, providing a moment of physical and emotional connection in which they can exchange experiences.
At the same time, books encourage imagination and creativity by putting the child in contact with make believe worlds and realities that are different from theirs. For this very reason, books also encourage empathy.
Of course, reading is also very important for language development. Researchers from Barcelona carried out a study on the importance of reading aloud to children. They confirmed that listening to written stories provides learning that does not usually happen in everyday life.
Children who listen to stories have a richer vocabulary, a more complex language and are able to give more elaborate narratives as they develop. In addition, they have an easier time learning how to read and write, developing better reading comprehension and, consequently, having a better school performance.
This is a list of the main benefits of reading to children:
- Strengthen family bonds
- Encouraging imagination and creativity
- Stimulating empathy
- Language development
- Expanding vocabulary
- Assists literacy
- Greater understanding of texts
- Better school performance
How to read to children at every age
There is exact right age to learn to read, as well as there is no minimum or maximum age to encourage reading. This is a habit that can start even before the child is born, and reading together as a family can continue after the child has become an independent reader.
Tips on how to make reading more pleasurable, interesting and stimulating at each age:
Reading to babies up to 2 years old
Since pregnancy, the baby can identify sounds and create memories of the tone of voice of those who interact with them. Therefore, reading books aloud at this stage is a way to promote this contact, producing different sounds from those of everyday life.
Babies can already start to interact with books to gain familiarity with objects and it is important to stimulate reading as part of the routine, as well as feeding and bedtime rituals.
- Read short passages every day to strengthen the habit instead of reading an entire book at once and then waiting a while to do it again.
- Point out the pictures in the book and say the name of what the baby is looking at out loud.
- Make gestures, facial expressions and change your voice according to the story.
- Mimic the sounds the baby makes and watch their reactions.
- Talk to the baby about the elements in the book, pointing to them: “Look at the kitten. The kitten meows! ”.
- Ask questions: “Where’s the kitten? Who meows?”
- Smile and respond when the child speaks or points out something.
- Let the child turn the pages.
- Read the same story over and over if the child wants to.
Reading for children from 3 to 5 years old
In this phase, children are very curious and like to predict things, so they ask to read the same story several times. They are already able to repeat the sentences and participate more actively when reading, choosing books, and to ask questions about what happens in the story. They even manage to retell the story in their own way. So it is a great time to keep reading to children so that this habit will be part of their life forever.
- As you read, ask questions to encourage understanding of the story. For example: “Who is this?”, “Where are they?”
- Value the questions and listen carefully to the child’s comments, as they reveal their understanding of the story and what they are feeling.
- Talk about the characters’ feelings, and ask if the child felt the same way.
- Encourage the child to tell the story in their own way.
- When reading repeated stories, ask the child what happens next.
- When telling the story, read the text as written, without taking out seemingly difficult words. It is a way of expanding the vocabulary. If the child asks, explain the meaning using examples and synonyms.
Reading to children from 6 to 8 years old
In this age group the child is in a phase full of imagination, creativity and energy. The literacy process allows the child’s first autonomous readings – a special and very remarkable moment! Now more than ever, reading is a great ally for new learners.
- Encourage the child to read the book aloud, and help out when they are having difficulties.
- So neither you or the child get tired, take turns on each page or each one can read a character’s lines.
- Be careful not to put too much pressure on reading and try to make it a must! This will be required more and more at school, so show your little one that at home this is a leisure time. It must be fun!
- Keep reading to the child, because even if the child is not reading alone, you can make connections with the sounds to the text on each page.
- As the child is more mature in this phase, take advantage of the themes in the books to have conversations about feelings, behaviors and everyday situations.
Reading to 9 years old and over
At the age of 9 to 12, the child’s relationship with reading changes a lot. As they are already completely literate, it is common to think that we no longer need to read to them. However, there lies the problem.
This is a time when many children lose the habit of reading, because despite reading the books required by the school, they no longer see this habit as pleasant. So, what can we do to prevent this from happening?
- Keep reading stories to the child – bedtime can be a good time for that. Listening to an adult’s reading is important even after literacy, because the child will be observing a more experienced reader and learning from them. They will look forward to this interaction.
- Have time to read together: each one can read their own book and then share something about what they read.
- Have the child read for you, or for your siblings. They will be excited to be able to play this new role (children love to feel more grown-up!).
- Offer books from different genres and authors, so that the child can know which books they like the most and, thus, remain interested in the world of reading.
Reading is indeed a way to learn and develop essential skills, both for school performance and life. However, as adults and mediators for children, the best we can do to encourage their passion for reading is to show that stories are a fantastic fantasy land, filled with imagination and dreams. If children see books as doors to different worlds from an early age, in which they can live endless experiences, it is very unlikely that this interest will be lost over the years.
Did you like the tips? Share in the comments what you do at home to encourage the habit of reading.