March 28, 2011
My kids will crawl into my lap pretty much anytime I am seated (which, given that I am almost 8 months' pregnant, is fairly often) and pick out book after book to read.
I have been reading to my babies since the day they were born. They each have different learning styles and my youngest had a harder time sitting still in the beginning. However, we patiently made reading a time of cuddling and bonding and now he sits through longer books and asks for them to be read again and again.
One of the ways we inspired a love of reading is through creating a reading ritual. Preschool teachers are experts at this as they call the children to "circle time" with their songs or set-up cozy nooks for independent exploration of books.
In addition to reading throughout the day, we have special times that we always read. Right before going to sleep, we all cuddle together in bed and select a special bedtime book to read together. We turn on a soft table lamp and turn off the overhead lights. We grab special blankets and pillows and plush friends and snuggle in. Then mommy or daddy begins to read.
Lighting, location, props, a limited selection of appropriate books, and a predictable time of day can all help create a reading ritual.
This sort of predictable winding down is also great for helping the children to get ready for sleep time.
Often, after "lights out", the children continue to "read" to themselves. My son enjoys "Goodnight, Scout" because it allows him to independently flip the pages and hear the story. The soothing music also adds to the goodnight ritual.
Cue words are another way to start and complete your ritual. That is why fairy tales often begin "once upon a time" and why so many children's books have a final page, "the end." Children are more comfortable and open to learning when they know what to expect. You can sing or say a short verse to welcome your children to story time or you can even simply say, "Shall we read a story together?"
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