Monday, June 7, 2010

Toddler Reading Time

Studies show that kids with active exposure to language have social and educational advantages over their peers — and reading is one of the best exposures to language.
Reading to toddlers sets the foundation for later independent reading. But before they can read independently, they need emergent literacy skills. These include:
  • having a large vocabulary of words and knowing how to use them
  • understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds (called phonemic awareness)
  • understanding that marks on a page represent letters and words
  • knowing the letters of the alphabet
You don't need games, flashcards, or special instruction for a toddler gain these skills. Just reading to your child as often as possible is the best way to help him or her learn to read independently.

Experts recommend reading to toddlers as often as possible, striving for at least one scheduled reading time each day. Choosing regular times to read (especially before naps and bedtime) helps kids learn to sit with a book and relax. But you can read anytime your child seems in the mood.

You'll find that your toddler wants to be independent and successful. Encourage this by offering three or four books to choose from, praising the selection, letting your toddler help you turn pages, and asking for help as you find things on a page. Your child will love to finish sentences in books with repetitive phrasing or rhymes.
Here are some additional reading tips:
  • Read whatever books your toddler asks for, even if it's the same book every night for weeks and weeks (and weeks and weeks).
  • Read slowly enough for your toddler to understand.
  • Read expressively, using different voices for different characters and raising or lowering your voice as appropriate.
  • Use puppets, finger plays (like the "Itsy Bitsy Spider"), or props while you read.
  • Encourage your toddler to clap or sing when you read rhythmic, sing-song books.
  • Talk about the illustrations. Point to items and name them. Then ask your child to name them with you and offer enthusiastic praise.
  • Ask open-ended questions — "Why do you think the lion is going into the woods? What do you think will happen next?" This encourages your child to think about the story and to ask questions.
  • Substitute your child's name for the name of a character in the book.
  • Have fun! Show your child that reading is enjoyable.
Don't worry if your child can't sit still for an entire book — toddlers' attention spans will get longer soon. You might want to keep reading even if your child moves around. Before bedtime, allow your child to touch and play with favorite toys while you read aloud. The sound of your voice will be a soothing reminder of your bedtime routine and that books are a part of it.

Toddlers want to feel included and competent; choose books they can follow along with, especially those with repetitive text so they can fill in words. Maintain your toddler's interest by choosing books with small amounts of text on the page and books about topics that you know are of interest.

Toddlers love to look at homemade books, scrapbooks, or photo albums full of people they know (try adding simple captions). Poetry and songbooks are good choices for this age group too. You may find that story time turns into sing-along time.

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