national literacyReading to your kids is incredibly beneficial; it not only helps them to understand and develop basic speech skills and the fundamentals of language, it also teaches them basic things like the mechanics of reading a book and how to sit still and concentrate for extended periods of time.  It’s also a great excuse to snuggle up together – and who’s going to say no to that?!

Here are a few tips to help maximize reading with your little ones:

– Keep books everywhere.  Don’t limit books to the bedroom!  We have piles of books in both of our boys’ bedrooms, the playroom and the family room where we spend most of our time.  Having them out and easily accessible makes any time a good time to read, which leads me to…

– Read anytime.  Again, don’t fall into the trap that you can only read books before bed.  Sure, they’re sitting still then (usually), but they might be way too tired to enjoy or engage in the book – and that just makes the whole experience a total hot mess.  I like reading to the boys while we’re eating breakfast or lunch; they’re both alert, engaged, and content to sit through book after book while they eat.

– Visit the library.  We are fortunate to have lots of libraries here in Charlotte.  There’s at least one branch in almost all neighborhoods in town, and they all have well-stocked childrens sections filled with books, puzzles and games.  Bring your kids and make it a fun place to be!  We like to meet our friends there and let the kids play, pick out books together, and even help with checking out.

– Go to story times.  They’re FREE!  They’re fun!  They’re a great way to meet friends for you and your kids, and it allows you to pick up a few new tips about reading too.  For a list of local story times, click here.

– Pick age appropriate books.  The material you read to your kids really IS important, even at a young age.  If a book is too wordy, too long, or not illustrated enough, it won’t hold your child’s attention, no matter how interesting the story might be.  For toddlers, look for books with minimal words (rhymes or silly sounds are always popular), and lots of bright, colorful illustrations.  See what your child is drawn to and pick accordingly.  And don’t forget about the non-fiction section!  They’re filled with great pictures.

– Be prepared to read the same books over and over (and over) again.  That’s just how it is with kids this age.  Sorry!!

– It’s OK to not “read” every page.  Don’t feel like you have to read each word and each line in every story!  I like substituting names and words for those my sons are familiar with or giggle at (for instance, “Mom” becomes “Mama” or “Mommy,” “Papa” becomes “Daddy”).  Just use the illustrations to guide you and go from there.

– Play “I Spy.”  Another way to enjoy books together is to study the pictures.  Ask your child to find certain things, or have them tell you or describe what they see.  This will help build their vocabulary and helps to engage them more with the story.

– Relax and enjoy.  All too quickly they’ll be reading on their own and won’t ask for you to read them “The Cat in the Hat” for the five millionth time that day.  Enjoy these sweet (and not-so-sweet) moments together!!

Happy reading!!