How can you continue to make reading exciting so your child won't turn her attention to television or the tempting mélange of electronic gizmos at her disposal? You can't if you race through a story in a monotone so you can pop off the light at bedtime. Instead, read aloud with gusto, exhilaration, and joy. Make kids feel the roiling seas and the warm breezes that blow on a summer night. When reading is a pleasurable experience, children stay connected to the story — and to you.
To make the most of your reading time:
- Ham it up! Read slowly enough for your child to build mental pictures of what he hears. Stop periodically so he can study the pictures in the book without feeling hurried. Raise or lower your voice to build drama and suspense. Dialogue adds life to a story, so scan a book before you read and follow the implied stage directions. If a character shouts, raise your voice! If he speaks in a stern voice, do the same.
- Vary your subject matter as well as the kinds of things you read. Wordless picture books give kids the chance to tell their own stories as they "read," jump-starting the creative process. Let your child's imagination soar, and show her how excited you are by her ideas.
- Hunt for books that match your child's interests. When you make a point of finding books on subjects dear to your child's heart, you not only stimulate his interest in literature but let him know that you value what he thinks and does.
- Look for books that interest you too. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you're excited by an author or a story line, your child will be too. The world of books provides a safe, inexpensive way to explore new subjects: travel to Japan, read about sports heroes, learn how astronauts prepare for space.
- Foster closeness between siblings. If your children are several years apart, you may want to schedule individual reading times as they get older to ensure that the books are at the appropriate reading level. But don't forsake family reading. Suggest that older kids read to younger ones.
- Help your child notice new information as you read. By sharing your feelings about a story, you motivate your child to do the same. By asking her opinions and listening to them without judgment or criticism, you let your child know that you value her feelings and ideas and respect her judgment.
- Let her read to you. Once your child starts to read, vary your ritual by taking turns reading to each other, and don't be too quick to correct a beginner. If your child mispronounces or incorrectly sounds out a word, wait until he finishes the page or the thought so you don't discourage his attempts. Then say, "Did that word make sense?"
- Get her a library card. Most public libraries issue cards when a child is 5 or can write her name. Celebrate the event, and check out library reading hours and family reading times as well as book clubs and other motivating programs.