Story time is one of the best ways to connect as a family every day. Not only is a great way to bond, but it also supports cognitive and language development.
Story time can be easy when you only have one child, but as your family grows, it can be more challenging to make reading at home as a family effective for children of various ages. After all, you may have an infant who is primarily interested in chewing on a book, and a preschooler who wants to identify sight words or talk about the story. So, how can everyone benefit and engage in story time? Here are four reading strategies for parents to use with their children.
Quality May be Better than Quantity
We know how important the first three years of life are, which means that early literacy plays a crucial role in your child’s development. Therefore, you may feel pressure to get a significant amount of reading in every day with each child.
Try to carve out time to read in your family’s current bedtime routine. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, reading offers many benefits to young children, including infants. That’s right, 15 minutes is all it takes to improve vocabulary, increase letter recognition, enhance reading proficiency, and more! Try to read for a few minutes before your youngest goes to sleep.
Take Turns Being the Story Helper
Toddlers and preschoolers take on a much more active role in reading compared to infants, so it’s important to keep them engaged. Allow your children to take turns being the story helper. For a toddler, this may mean that they want to flip the pages at their own pace, whereas a preschooler may want to hold the book and ask questions as you read it aloud. Sharing can be difficult at this age, but story time is a great way to help encourage sharing and taking turns under adult guidance. Set realistic expectations and know that it may take time for everyone to get used to taking turns as the story helper.
Helping with the story is also a great way to have younger children participate in reading a book that introduces a new topic or a more advanced concept. Try this approach for books that your child is interested in that may be beyond their reading level.
Choose Books They Can Connect With
Your children have common interests, even if they are different ages. Try to pick books that center around topics that all of your children can relate to and engage with. For example, do they love animals? Pick out books that address common interests.
You can also choose books that relate to personal experiences. Does your family have a pet? If you read a book that talks about a pet, use it as an opportunity to pause and ask questions that allow your children to connect with the book. You can change your questions based on your children’s age and reading level. Sometimes, it can be just as valuable to talk about the book as it can be to actually read it, especially if your children can form connections with the storyline and characters.
Make Reading Time Fun
Reading should be a fun family activity! This means that some of your children may make noise or move around while reading. It can also mean that your infant is going to reach for the book. Focus on enjoying the book as a family rather than wondering if the theme of the story resonated with each of your children. Story time may not always be quiet or “picture perfect,” and that’s okay!
Even if your children are at different language and literacy milestones, there is still value in reading together as a family every day. How you read may vary by age, but how you enhance their reading experiences doesn’t have to change.