5 Tips for Raising Readers

  
“My baby won’t sit still and read.”

“My baby just chews on books.”

“My baby is too young to understand.”

“I sound silly reading aloud to my baby.”

These are the top most common statements I hear from parents who don’t read daily with their children. Often, these parents know that reading is important for a child to develop literary skills and they do want their children to develop good reading habits. However, the reasons they give stop them from reading daily with their little ones. 

Whenever my friends tell me any of the above reasons, I urge them not to give up and simply keep trying. 

1.  Start young

I never quite understand why it’s too early to read to babies simply because they won’t understand. It’s not as if we stop talking to babies because they won’t understand us. The whole point of speaking and reading to them is so they get used to our voices, pick up vocabulary as they grow and learn communication skills. It’s NEVER too early to read to the little ones. If they won’t sit still to look at the pages, so be it. They haven’t got the attention span but they can still hear you speak the words. 

2. Make it a routine

To encourage reading, make it part of their daily lives. Many people encourage reading at bedtime. I recommend reading whenever your child is in the best mood for it. It could be in the morning, afternoon or before going to bed. In our home, I try to do it 3 times a day. We have two piles of books by the bed which we read in the morning and night time. It’s really nice to snuggle up close to read a few books before starting the day. In the day, we read by the bookshelf in the living room and we spend about 30 to 45 minutes just reading and looking through books. 

3. Let your child pick the book

I make sure my son has easy access to his books. He’s free to pull them off the shelves and flip the pages. Paperbacks are placed higher up and can only be read under adult supervision because he is not exactly the most gentle being on earth. He gets to pick whatever book and I’ll read them to him. It doesn’t matter if he decides on a different book after I’ve read a couple of pages. I let him take the lead.

4. Make it fun

Go beyond the print on the pages! Make silly noises because kids love it when you make a fool out of yourself. Be animated, and ask questions. Even if you’re reading to a baby, ask questions and provide the answers. One fine day, he or she will respond positively and you’ll feel so rewarded. 

5. Keep reading

Don’t give up just because your child doesn’t seem interested. Who cares if you sound or look silly reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar out loud surrounded by your own four walls? If you do it often enough, you’ll soon know what your child likes and dislikes, and how to get his/her attention. 

Bear in Sunshine by Stella Blackstone

 
The Bear titles published by Barefoot Books is one of my favourite series. In Bear in Sunshine, bear enjoys different fun-filled activities in the various seasons. From singing in the rain to painting when it gets misty, each page opens a wide range of topics to discuss with children. 

My son LOVES balls. Anything that’s round is a ball to him. The first thing he spotted on the cover page was bear carrying a ball. Using the ball as an object of interest, I’ll ask him to point out the ball to me in the book. The bear series is fantastic for playing I-Spy with little children. There is always something to spot in these vibrantly illustrated pages. 

This is also a good book to introduce little readers to the four seasons and weather changes. It offers lots of room for discussion on what your little one might like to do on a rainy day or a windy autumn day. 

Mouse Paint by Ellen Stoll Walsh

 
What a great way to introduce children to primary and secondary colours! The vibrant illustrations are accompanied with a simple storyline.  

Mouse Paint is a brilliant concept book for young children who are learning about colours and art. I’ve recently started my 13 month old on using crayons and I think this board book will come in handy to reinforce what the three primary colours are.

The text is predictable for adults but this is what young children like. It is short and simple and will definitely keep the younger ones focused. 

Wow! Said the owl by Tim Hopgood

I try to read in Mandarin to my son as often as possible. However I’ve not had much luck in finding good Chinese books in Europe until I found Flip For Joy, an online bookstore specialising in Chinese books based in Singapore. 

We have a hardback copy of Wow! Said the Owl in Mandarin. It is one of my son’s favourite Chinese books probably because of the funny voice I make when I say “wa-o”. It is a fabulous book that introduces children to a colourful world through the eyes of an owl. The illustrations are beautiful and the simple text makes it the ideal book for very young children. 

 

Baby Touch: Rainbow (Published by Ladybird)

 
Every baby needs a novelty touch and feel book. Such interactive books are specially used to help children gain knowledge by stimulating their senses. Not only do they see and hear the words on the pages, they are encouraged to feel the textures with their hands. In the case of my 1 year old, he has to first touch the textures and then give them a good, wet lick. 

I’m a big fan of Ladybird’s touch and feel series. They are sturdy board books that can withstand the usual wear and tear an excited toddler would inflict on them. The books are often brightly illustrated which capture children’s attention easily. 

This particular Rainbow book is fabulous as the layered pages make it easy for babies to flip it. Unlike the usual novelty books that merely list the names of items on each page, this actually has a simple rhyme to it. There are different animals, sea creatures, vehicles and objects to explore in this touch and feel book.

The Story Machine by Tom McLaughlin

  

These days, gadgets such as tablets, computers and smartphones are everywhere. I do wonder if children know what a typewriter is? I’m not exactly ancient, but I did use a typewriter when I was a child. My cousins had one and I enjoyed hitting the keys. 

This is a fabulous book to share with children the beauty of storytelling. Elliot, the boy in the story, chances upon a machine that’s quite different from the gadgets he knows. He figures out that it makes letters and hence it must be a story machine. As he isn’t very good with letters, he thinks he can’t create great stories. However, he soon notices that the letters look like pictures and brilliant stories need great pictures. And with great pictures, he can make magical stories!

It is a tremendously inspiring book for both adults and children. At the end of the book, Elliot realises that he’s the one creating the stories; not the machine. Even though he isn’t good at spelling, he manages to tell his own stories in his own unique way – using pictures. 

Not every child is a spellingbee champion. They all learn words as they go along. As adults, should we extinguish the fire they have in them just because they aren’t good at something? I doubt so. Let’s encourage children to blossom, to think out of the box and be creative. Let’s bring out the best in them. 

The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo

  

Zot who lives in a colourless world yearns for the beautiful colours on planet Earth. So he travels in his spaceship to Earth and takes all the colours with him, even the beautiful orange from a little boy.

However, when he noticed how upset the boy was, Zot returned all the colours to Earth. In return, the boy gave Zot his orange balloon to bring back to his planet.

This is a thought provoking story which allows children to discuss topics such as what makes them happy, showing consideration towards others and sharing with others. Definitely a heartwarming story which deserves more credit.