Catherine Christmann, library manager at Thomas Branigan Memorial Library, shares 5 tips for fusing a love of reading into your child’s life.
- Keep It Natural
Parents tend to forget that the simple acts interwoven in your daily life are a gateway to children forming a foundation of learning. “If you’re going on errands like to the drycleaner and grocery store, talk about where you’re going first, the reason for the route you’re taking, because it gives them sequencing,” Catherine says. “That is a crucial step for learning to read—that there is a beginning, a middle, an end.”
- Sing & Play
Singing is important for memory and playing with an adult helps build the imagination children will need to create a story from the book. “You can take a ruler and decide that it’s a sword or maybe it’s a ski pole to show that something can represent something else,” Catherine explains.
- Scribble Away
Let children get into the mindset of producing writing, even if it’s just scribbling, to gain an early start into literacy. “Scribbling is writing,” Catherine assures. “Just using the right muscle to hold a pen or a piece of chalk starts the process of thinking and creates a connection between themselves and reading.”A scribble can also get a child in touch with the abstract concept of connecting words with things. “If they tell you that their scribbling is a dog and you write the word dog underneath, it reinforces the idea that things on paper are concepts of something else,” she says. “When you open a book later, they are familiar with the idea that writing represents a real thing or idea.”
- It’s Never Too Early
For the first year of life, children learn the world through the eyes of their caregivers. You might think they’re not paying attention, when in reality the child is already reading facial expressions. Those expressions become a clue for the child on how they are meant to engage with a concept.“When I did story time for infants, the babies always looked up to their mothers to see if something I said was funny or not,” Catherine laughs. “If Mommy didn’t laugh, they didn’t laugh because obviously it wasn’t funny. I have to remind mothers to participate. Don’t sit there and work on your checkbook; that’s not what we’re here for. This is time for you to be with them.”
- Keep Them Interested
Use facial expressions, vocal inflection (change up your tone), along with noises and gasps to keep their attention.“But, there isn’t a fixed rule that if your child is bored and not interested in a book that you have to even finish it,” she adds. Take cues from the child’s unique learning needs and ability to listen. Don’t push too hard; slowly continue to work at lengthening the reading times so that an attention span has time to develop.
Want to be a better storyteller?
Visit Thomas Branigan Memorial Library for resources, opportunities to form a community with other parents, and these regularly scheduled Early Literacy programs.
Infants, Wednesdays at 11am
Rhythm Round Up
Ages 2-5, Fridays at 10:30am
Read to Me
Ages 3-5, Tuesdays at 10:30am
Ages 6-10, Fridays at 3:30am
Thomas Branigan Memorial Library
200 E. Picacho Ave.
Catherine’s Recommended Kid Reading List
Having trouble finding just the right book for your little reader? Catherine suggests these books to get you started.
For the Easy Reader
Look For: Few words in controlled vocabulary for the beginner levels
Taking the next step
Look For: Picture books, but aspirational or just plain funny
Look For: The true story behind a classic tale
Look For: Longer stories with fewer pictures
Reading like Mom and Dad
Look For: A chapter book with no pictures