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3 ingredients for spreading the joy of reading with your child

Reading together can be done in a myriad of contexts.  In the very early years when infants are not even looking at words– they can still share your love for books. Merely by being physically present as you do things, they observe your interests and what you value. The way you make clear your value system is with your attention. When you’re giving your child physical closeness, face-to-face expressions, and your voice– you’re showing them that they are important and what you are doing together is important.

There are three ingredients of early reading that also help you bond with your children in a way no one else can:

  1. Face to face communication (not just your voice, which they’ve heard since before their birth), but your facial expressions convey much information about the story. Make sure you can see each other’s eyes, eyebrows, and mouth. Vary the vocal expression in your voice to mimic characters, environmental noises, and story tension.
  2. Physical closeness, so they can hear the vibrations of your voice if you’re talking or feel the tenseness or relaxation in your body. Your posture, gestures, and motion help to convey your emotions beyond what is written in the text. 
  3. Your actions, which they can observe as you perform and respond to the story. You can model story elements and actions. Some children enjoy acting out different character parts.

When these three ingredients are combined with reading, the bonds between parent and children grow stronger, even if the child is not consistently being read to. This is one reason to see storytellers perform, to give you ideas on how to dramatize a story.

At a young age, I fell in love with reading through observing my mother’s love for reading.  One of my earliest memories was when mom was sitting on a stool and reading a mystery novel.  She held me on her lap as she was reading and I wasn’t really paying attention to the book because it wasn’t a picture book. I was just happy to be together and quiet in the sunlit room.  It wasn’t a kids book but my mom was focused on the book. I didn’t even understand what reading was, I might have been a baby, but the seeds for my own reading was planted then.  The intimacy of being in close proximity to my favorite person and seeing her joy from her book signaled to me that books were rewarding.  Sharing her reading time with me imparted a sense of respect for the joy that books could bring. I was seeing her love reading and I knew, subconsciously, that I would be a reader too.


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