So probably the best way to help your kids develop (and keep) a love of reading is by starting early. Yes, I’m talking about picture books. But here’s something that’s really important and I didn’t it realize at first. Don’t just read a picture book like you would any other book. Don’t just read the words as you flip from page to page.
Instead, make it a much more auditory experience for young kids. What do I mean? Well, I’m convinced that younger kids use their sense of hearing much more than they do when they’re older. They listen to sound much more intently than we think. That’s why we sing children lullabies and other silly songs. They respond to that type of stimulus. Now that’s just my personal observations and I don’t know of any scientific testing to back that up, but I’ll bet as a parent you’ve noticed the same thing.
That’s why it’s so important to be lively when you read a picture book. Now I’m not saying you have to jump around and sing and dance…but inject some emotion and feeling into your reading. If the story is about a train, then make a train sound when the engine is chuffing up that steep hill. Or if the funny bear accidently swallows a bee, then pretend you have a bee buzzing around in your mouth.
Here’s the key though. Kids at the picture book age, love repetition. So if you make that train sound or pretend to have a bee stinging your cheek, then do it at the exact same point in the story, every time you read it. After a few times, your youngster will begin to anticipate those extra little antics and they will mimic them.
For even more fun, pretend you’re scared when Mr. Grumpy-Browse says he is going to lock the town sheriff in his own jail and throw away the key. Close the book and plead with your toddler to NOT make you keep reading. You’ll likely get a very brave response. “Don’t worry, Daddy. I promise to protect you from Mr. Grumpy-Browse. Besides, the sheriff has an extra key hidden in his boot.”
Still not sure how to pull off a good read for such a demanding audience? If your child goes to day-care (or you know a child who does), try sitting in during story time. These are folks that have figured out the power of captivating young kids with a picture book…because if they pull it off, they get 15 or 20 minutes of relative peace…but if they can’t pull it off, then they get something akin to Armageddon. Trust me, these folks literally treat story time like a life or death situation. They know what they’re doing.
My own son, loved it when I read picture books to him. After awhile, I began to realize he was associating the books we read with the sound of my voice. Like I said, I believe younger kids rely a lot more on their hearing than we realize. So when he came to me and shoved that picture book in my hands, it wasn’t really the book itself he was looking for. What he wanted was me. He wanted that warm experience of hearing my voice repeat the words and sounds he had heard so many times before – like a comforting blanket.
As a parent, there is no better feeling in the world. So grab a picture book and sit down with your kids and read it with a little passion. Because you might just find the most important emotion that comes from the whole experience is love.
All the best,