Do you and your children spend time enjoying storybooks together? And, do they also enjoy looking at or reading books on their own? When children spend time in these ways with books, they are learning to be readers!
Learning to read is a journey of discovery. As you travel through the world of storybooks with your children, you’ll uncover different treasures and pleasure along the way. You might notice that your child, who used to run off when you tried to read to him, now has a favourite picture book which he brings to you to read − over and over again! Or maybe you’re surprised the first time that your older child sits down with her younger brother and pretends to read to him from a familiar picture book.
If you read regularly with your children, you will notice that their book habits change over time. Here are some of the “signposts” that point out a successful reading journey.
- Babies may become quiet as you start to read a book to them, showing that they are listening, and sometimes they may clap or kick their legs to show their excitement. Some babies make sounds as you read to them. They are trying to imitate you.
- As children start to try to “read” on their own, they often turn the pages of the book, looking at the pictures while they make up their own story. (Sometimes they tell a different story each time!) This shows that they have learnt that the pictures give clues to what the story is about.
- Are there some storybooks that your children ask you to read again and again? You may find your children “reading” these books on their own by looking at the pictures and telling the story. They may use a mixture of their own words with some of the actual words from the story. This is an important step in learning to read because it means that children realise that written words stay the same each time you read them.
- As children begin to read aloud for themselves and come across an unfamiliar word, you may notice that they try to guess what the word is by using what has already happened in the story to help them. Or, they may use the accompanying picture to give them clues to what the unfamiliar word might be. These are clear signs that your children are well on their way to being independent readers. They know that reading is about making meaning.
So, how do you know when your children are “really reading” rather than pretending to read? When you go on a journey, you are not called a “traveller” only when you reach the destination. Learning to read is exactly the same. It is a journey and at every stage of that journey your children are behaving as readers, even when it seems that all they are doing is looking at the pictures and telling their own story!
Reading to your children – even after they have learnt to read for themselves – is the best and easiest way to help your children become readers. Make reading a daily habit and celebrate each attempt your children make on the journey to reading independence.