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Family Reading Time
Research shows that reading to your children is one of the best ways to ensure your child’s interest in the world of books.
Reading to children when they are infants and preschoolers helps them learn new words, increases their ability to concentrate, and makes them want to learn to read. Children then take those strong verbal skills with them to school, where learning to read is that much easier.
Think of all of the school lessons ahead for your child that will depend on being a good reader, and you’ll see the importance of family reading time in your child’s school success.
Parents who work all day may wonder how they can fit reading into the few hours they have with their children. A few suggestions may help:
• Anything and everything.
Encourage your child to read anything — cereal boxes, trading cards, signs, magazine ads, pictures in newspapers. Or find a favorite recipe and read it with your child as you prepare it together.
• Read and ride.
Working families often spend extra time in the car as children ride to and from school and child care. Use road time to read vanity license plates, find plates from different states, and read billboards and interesting road signs. Also, keep a few favorite books or books on tape in a book bag for reading on the road.
• Better than TV.
Read a good action story to replace an evening television program. Start an exciting chapter book with your family, and they’ll be eager to hear what comes next. If you’re too tired for reading aloud, ask an older child in the family to do the reading, or use a story tape.
• Pack a book.
When you’re going someplace with your child where there might be a long wait — a doctor’s office or an airline terminal — bring along a bag of favorite books.
• Phone home.
Work the night shift or can’t get away from the office? Keep a few children’s books at work. Use your coffee break to call home and read to your child.
• Book exchange.
Find a family whose children are similar in age to yours and exchange a book. Wrap the book, or include a potluck dinner to make it a special event.
• Distance parenting.
Parents who are separated from their children also can play a role. Try reading a book to your child over the phone, or cut out favorite cartoons and funny articles to send. Make story tapes in your own voice to send. Ask your children to send favorite stories, cartoons and jokes to you. Families with Internet access can exchange greetings on e-mail. Make time for reading when the children are with you.
• Library time.
Make a habit of stopping at the library on your way home from work and child care. Pack a snack and stop for a picnic on the way. Linger while you’re there — read a book to your children, allow time for them to explore and choose books of their own. Check the schedule for special events, such as story or activity times.
Article written by Peggy McClendon, Read to Me Co-Coordinator, Idaho State Library
and Harriet Shaklee PhD, Family Development Specialist, UI Cooperative Extension