We all know that reading books is a wonderful pastime to share with children.
Choosing books for your child, at any age, is easy if you keep these few handy tips below in mind, says Bill Conway, Principal Montessori East Pre and Primary School in Sydney.
1. Keep it real for young children (0-5 years)
Young children are interested in the world around them and real life experiences. So choose books that explore every day themes in believable situations.
Recommended reads: The Growing Story by Ruth Krauss, Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester and On the day you were born by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks.
2. Choose books with rich language
Descriptive, colourful language exposes children to a broad and accurate vocabulary making it easy to avoid baby talk. Very young children will enjoy the sound and rhythm of your voice.
Recommended reads: Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem Fox, For All Creatures by Glenda Millard, plus Hairy Maclary, and Slinky Malinki books by Lynley Dodd.
3. Picture books are fantastic at any age
A parent told us how his three year old daughters loves reading through a collection of art catalogues that her grandfather passed on to her. What a wonderful opportunity to explore the world through art – shape, form and colour. This is something that could appeal at any age and imagine the discussion you could have with your child.
Recommended reads: Something Wonderful by Raewyn Caisley, The Giving Tree by Shel Silvenstein and Katie and the Sunflowers by James Mayhew.
4. Choose books that are beautiful and treat them carefully
This allows for teaching children appreciation of the beauty in the world around us. For babies, cloth or board books are useful until they can care for a paper book.
Recommended reads: Time for Bed by Mem Fox, Isabella’s Garden by Glenda Millard and The Story of Rosy Dock by Jeannie Baker.
5. Choose books that are interesting to look at
A book we love at our school is All Through the Year by Jane Godwin because you can see the pictures change as the children in the story grow throughout the year. This provides a parent and child reading the book with lots to talk about such as, ‘how have the children changed and what’s happened to the garden? ‘
Recommended reads: A Year on Our Farm by Penny Matthews and Belonging by Jeannie Baker.
6. Read what your child is interested in
Make reading time a shared and an enjoyable experience. This is especially true for emerging and reluctant readers. If you force or push a child to read you risk turning them off reading. Some children are more interested in reading non-fiction books. You may find yourself more likely to stop and explain challenging vocabulary in a non-fiction book than when you are reading a story. If your child likes doing an activity like cooking, an easy recipe book (with clear pictures) can be a good way to get them reading as they help out.
7. Read aloud to your child and don’t stop until they leave high school
OK, well, as long as they will let you read to them. This is just so so important. Remember point 4. Think of some of the books you enjoyed as a child…the Classics can be a good place to start and they often have vocabulary that a child may not have come across in their own reading.
8. Don’t force a child to read to you
It can be a complete turn off for the child and it will be very difficult to reignite their interest. Sometimes they just might not be in the mood to read.
If you want to build reading skills whilst reading aloud, try tracking with your finger as you read the words on the page. Point to interesting words, long words, words that are capitalised, or even the arrangement of the words on the page. Rather than explaining things to your child, make your remarks short and simple, ‘wow, that’s interesting’ or ‘look at that long word!’
9. Share books with friends
This is especially good for primary aged children who will enjoy recommendations from peers. The Harry Potter series has recently taken off with a group of nine-year-old girls at our school and they’ve shared spells, made potions, and carved wands.
10. Remember that reading skills can take time
Just like the acquisition of language, developing reading skills can take longer for some than others.