Instilling a love of reading will take our children very far in life. From enhancing their language skills early on to contributing to later academic success. The very best way to encourage reading is to read to our children. And to enjoy reading to our children. Children can very much pick up on subtle signs when we are reading, so an enthusiastic voice and making comments throughout the story really help drive home that you too love to read. Even older children will benefit from simply listening to a parent read a story to them and just enjoy the story itself.
An easy way to help young children grasp the concept of letters, words and sentences is to simply follow the the words with your finger as you read them. You will soon notice your child doing the very same thing as they are 'reading' which gives the children more of a sense that they are actually reading. Also, children love to hear the same story over and over - so keep on reading that bedtime book that now makes you nauseous at the thought of reading it one more time. The ability to read a book from memory is one of the first steps in learning to read. Furthermore, hearing a book on cd or an Ipad is also a valid form of reading and can sometimes spark an interest in kids.
For preschoolers there are a few practices that you can put into place to really encourage a love of books. The first is to have books around the house. Creating cozy reading nooks will invite children into these spaces. Ewan has a reading nook in his room as well as in his playroom. In the playroom (above picture) we have a few shelves that are our central library and hold the majority of books sorted by holiday themes, baby and board books and books for Ewan. Sorting books by author or theme is also a great way to be able to quickly find the book your child may be looking for. Displaying some of your books by facing them forwards can also bring more attention to the books. In Ewan's playroom, the tall book shelf is used only to display books facing forward. In Ewan's bedroom, I choose only six books to have displayed at one time. This really encourages Ewan to read many of the books that might go unnoticed when they are all lined up with only the spines visible. Again, making the space simple and inviting plays a large role in getting the children to the area. So displaying only a few books, so that it is not overwhelming to look at and adding in some soft blankets or pillows can make a big difference.
At A Gym Tale, books are read in circle time to the whole group, in the reading nook during free play and used in various play centres. We have incorporated big pillows as well as a canopy over the book shelf to create a soft, quiet space for the children to go and read. A teacher is always ready and willing to read a book. It never ceases to amaze me to see a child ask a teacher to read a book, only to have 16 of 24 children sitting around her within minutes. Books are also included in various learning centres depending on the themes. Children love field guides about various science themes. Ewan's current favourite read is a guide of native plants in canada. Including books on rocks, bugs, birds - or whatever your child may be interested in is a great way to incorporate books into learning. In addition, felt board stories or finger puppets let children play out the stories again and again. The more interactive reading can be, the more children will be drawn to the activity.
I also have baskets around the house with themed books in each one. I have a basket in my bedroom for when Ewan wakes up early (trying to buy myself a few more minutes of sleep!) as well as a basket in Isla's room to give Ewan a quiet activity when I am trying to get Isla asleep. Having these baskets around the house is a sure way of always having a book readily available. His jungle themed basket has various stories with jungle animals - ranging from board books or disney books that he has memorized and can 'read' to himself to new books that he will look at the pictures or make up a story. I also try and include a few themed toys to encourage him to interact with the stories - such as a barrel of monkeys and some Lion King figurines.
And don't forget the babies! Isla also has baskets of books in her room as well as the living room. Many of these books are soft picture books or board books. However, with her teething and chewing she is quickly melting the board books. But she is also learning to turn pages, look at the pictures and enjoy listening to the stories as they are told.
Reading to your child every day really is one of the most worthwhile activities that you can do with your family.