Monday, February 27, 2012

How to encourage reading in young toddlers

Chloe is currently 35 months old, she'll be 3 next month. She is able to read the book titled "The Ants Are in A Hurry" by herself now(although she bit the book at the end of the video, haha!).

If you're thinking that she is an obedient child, or she picked up the book with interest in reading, no she is not (having said that, I did not force her to read, haha!).

If your child or children have the following problems, don't worry, Chloe had them too!
1) Show no interest in reading
2) Would run away when you try to read to him or her
3) Play the books like playing blocks, example, pile them up like a book tower.
4) Tear the books
5) Bite the books
6) Throw or scatter the books around
7) Does not allow you to read the book
8) Only look at pictures when you read to her and even when you point the words to her
9) Keep asking questions relating to the pictures instead of reading the words.

Chloe does not like to read prior to 35 months old, why do I say that? Because she has all the behaviours listed above previously. But now, she likes to read. She will bring her favourite books to bed and we will read together every night before sleeping. Here, I would like to share with you how do I cultivate the interest of reading in her.

1) A small library or books collection at home
Thanks to my sister in law, I have many books passed down from my niece to my children at home. These books were of very good conditions when given to me, but they are mostly torn or show signs of wear and tear now, as my girl like to 'play' them and does not take good care of the books.
Although my girl does not show interest in reading before 35 months old, I would still try to introduce all kinds of books to her, and the books are arranged in a small bookshelf beside her toy box, so that she get to see the books all the time.
A small library at home is important, as young toddlers like to read the same books over and over, they like to do things repetitively, and they gain confidence by doing something they already knew. It is true that you can borrow books from library nowadays, but you can't borrow the same books for your kids all the time.

2) Bring them to National Library
In Singapore, we have very good public library facilities which are so conveniently located at many of the shopping malls. I would think everyone should fully utilise this free service provided by the government, and I can't believe that there are parents who are not aware, or have not bring their children to library.
Our National Libraries have very good books to the children, from touch books, flap books for babies to story, and reference books for primary kids. Each individual can borrow 6 books (12 books during promotion) each time for a period of 3 weeks. You can return the books at any of the library, not necessary the one that you borrowed the books.
I bring my girl to library almost once a week since she was 20 months old. Although she did not like reading, she like going to library, and mess up the books there. Most of the time, she was just walking around, taking the books, scattering the books or see others reading the books (of course, I got to tidy up for her).
The objective of me bringing her to library, is to let her have a feel of what books are, I want her to think that reading is fun, and many children go to library to read books. This work for her, she would request to visit the library every time we passed by one. Most of the time, we borrow story books home and I let her put the books at the borrowing kiosk which she finds it interesting.

3) Show them good example
I do not like to watch TV drama at home. When my husband is not around, the TV in my living room is off most of the time. I like spending my time with my kids by playing with them, or read to them. Previously, my girl does not like reading, so I read my own magazine, or newspaper when I have time. My girl would imitate me, by holding a book, and "read" or rather talk in her own language. I believe, by reading in front of her, I'm showing her that books are for reading, and not for playing.
If you would like your children to start reading at young age, you should show them a good example. Many times, I see children who do not like to read, grown up in a non-reading family, i.e. the parents themselves also do not like to read.
Having said this, I do watch my favourite drama occasionally. Especially now my girl can read by herself, I would watch the drama by using Iphone, while she read the books sitting beside me. When she can't read the words, or if she get distracted by my Iphone, I would stop watching drama and guide her. What I'm trying to emphasize is that, you need not sacrifice your hobby, and this is why I emphasize in young learning, as I would have more and more free time for myself when my kids can self-learning after having strong base.

4) Build up the interest, get the concept right
I prefer to cultivate interest in my kids rather than force them doing something they do not like. Although my girl does not like reading, I bring her to library, buy books with her favourite characters for her. I show her that books are interesting, it have many nicely drawn graphics, and if you read them, they'll tell you a great story.
When she played the books and pile them up, I did not stop her, instead, I let her play and explore the books by herself.
Some parents like to scare the children by saying "the books are very difficult nowadays, if you don't learn now you'll not be able to read.... etc". If you make a child think that books are hard to read, they'll not even want to touch the books. Remember, children like to do things they already knew, that is why we must let them 'befriend' the books, let them familiar with the books, once they are able to read a few sentence, they'll like reading!

5) Cater to the individual's interest and strength.
My girl likes to play game, so I played a game with her.
I told her, "when mummy points, you will read; when you point, mummy will read". We played this a few times, and she was finally looking at the words when i read, and read the words after me.
I then played another game with her, I would say a word and she got to find where is the word; after playing a few times, she requested to say the words and let me find where were the words. By doing this, I am assured that she really recognises the words.

6) Start with simple.
Some parents can be very ambitious, and give a very wordy book to their children. However, by doing this, they might be killing the interest off from the children, as none of the children would like the feeling of "been defeated", i.e. they can't read. Don't forget, the children like to do something that they are familiar with, and be praised of. A step by step approach is thus more encouraged.
You may refer to the ladybird's series of Peter and Jane, where the books are categorised by level, start with Level 1 and progress smoothly to next level. It contains many repetitive words, which could be boring to the parents, but these are the keywords that build up vocabulary in young children, and believe me, most children like to read repetitively.

7) Does phonics help?
Experts believe that young children below 5 years old could not associate phonics in words. They believe young children read by recognising the word, instead of by the phonetic method. This could be the fact, but there could be exceptional case as well.
For my girl, she could get the first letter right after hearing a word, but she could not spell the word unless i slow down and sound the letters one by one. I believe she still read by memory, but I'm sure phonics will help her in her reading once she got the concept, thus I still teach her phonics concurrently hoping that she would pick it up soon.

Lastly, I am not a very hardworking mother. Or some might be thinking I'm a full time housewife, no, I'm not. I'm a working mother of two, I reach home around 7pm during weekdays, I have around 1 hour with my kids after my dinner and shower. I try to utilise this one hour to the fullest, but I do have time when I feel lazy or just want to rest or do my face mask, so, I'm not different from many women out there! Never think that you're too busy, no time or not good enough in guiding your children, you can definitely do it if you want to :)

Her second book just a week after she starts reading:

Reading can be very addictive to young children :)


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