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Read A Lot Into Your Child...

The ability to read is, literally, the open door to all other skills. Parents can easily set the stage for their children to learn to read well. To this end, there is one simple act that brings dozens of rich and lasting benefits to your child. Reading skills are just the beginning of them.

My grown son used to enjoy claiming that the gray streaks in my hair were a direct result of his teenage years. I'm not saying that those years didn't contribute to my all natural highlights, but the bare fact is that they began while teaching my now grown (and highly successful) daughter how to drive a car. Holy smoke. What a gut wrenching, heart stopping, nerve fraying endeavor. I remember it clearly. I don't know why we give 2,000 pound missiles to sixteen year old people. But that's another blog for another day.

Teaching driving nearly finished me off. Teaching my children how to read, however, was the easiest thing I ever did. Seriously. It is not difficult. You don't need a reading specialist certificate or a degree in early childhood literacy, you just need access to books and your child. That's it. You likely have all the tools you need to teach your own child to read. Listen to me carefully: you don't have to be a professional teacher to teach reading. You can do it.

As parents we are our children's first and most influential teachers. The guidance we give in all areas of life will stay with them for their entire lifetime. The experiences they have at home will be far reaching and long lasting. Their core beliefs about what it is to be human, how to love, how to communicate, how to be generous or kind, managing strong emotions, and learning new things all come from your heart and hands. Including the ability to read.

There is one simple act that everyone can easily do which will offer, arguably, the most benefit for the time invested. That act is reading aloud with your children. Begin this habit when your children are infants. Seriously. I read aloud to my children when they were just tiny nuggets resting in the crook of my left arm while I balanced a book on my right. Or as I simply told stories from memory. Or made them up as I went along.

The benefits of this are almost too many to count. For you and your child. The first is the intimate connection that you are building as you sit close together sharing your own voice; pausing to listen to the infant babbles that are the beginning of their speech. Practice conversation patterns that include talking and listening. Speak to your child then pause. Listen. Speak again. Listen again. Practice this when they are infants and then when they are tweens and teens you will have the habit of listening in place.

Another great benefit is that through the stories you are showing your child the world beyond their door. We live on a vast, fascinating planet filled with people and places and customs that are so different! This is exciting to discover. Stories will take them places that no car or airplane can ever do.

Through reading they will meet great people of history and people just like themselves. They will meet children who live in far away cities and countries whose lives are radically different. They learn about the great variety of ways to be fully human and connected to community. They will learn how very much alike all people are at the center of their being.

Reading sparks imagination. Avid readers are creative thinkers. If you can read, you can learn to do anything. If your child wants to build a hover craft or weave a piece of cloth there will be countless books that can show them how it is done. And with supplemental tools from the internet, you can watch videos that reinforce what they receive from the books. It is a wonderful time in history to be a learner.

Here are some general tips for getting your child ready to read. Bear in mind one simple truth: this should be a positive, uplifting experience for both of you. If you ruin it by removing the joy you'll be hard pressed to recover it. I'm just sayin.

  1. Read every day. Make reading aloud to your child a habit. When they are very young ten minutes a day is enough, and then as their attention span grows so can the time you allot to this activity.

  2. Read expressively. Do the voices. Give the story meaning by involving yourself. Embrace the academy award winning performer within you. Your children will laugh and enjoy the time more when they realize that you are enjoying it.

  3. Touch the words. When your child is a pre reader, run your finger under the words as you read them. This teaches them how the words are organized on the page. This is a very basic pre reading skill and assures them that reading is not a random act, but an easily decodable system.

  4. Get your snuggle on. When you are reading with your child take the opportunity to be physically close. The security your child will get from this helps them sleep better. It will help you too. They are small enough to snuggle for a short time. Don't miss out.

  5. Choose good books. Like most things, children's books are not all good. If you need help choosing, go to the public library and ask the children's librarian. These people are the unsung heroes of the literary world. Ask for the suggestions about classics as well as modern literature. You can also do an internet search, but children's librarians are so nice and interesting I would rather spend time with them. But maybe that's just me.

If you want more information about this, go to my website to find videos and free printables that will help you. If you only do one thing for your child each day, let it be reading to them. You can not start this too young. Begin today.

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