I love reading! Reading can take you and your children on epic adventures – back in time to the Jurassic Period or on magical travels around the world – without leaving the comfort of your home. In this last year, I’ve read more news, CDC reports and medical journals than I prefer to count, trying to make sense of COVID and stay informed. Yet after work, while my kids are winding down before bed, I get to unplug so I can be fully present for those precious cuddle moments while reading books. Bedtime with my children continues to be a good reminder that although reading brings information, it is also a powerful and accessible way to connect with our children and find some entertainment.
I’m going to address some common parent questions/comments about reading with kids:
When is the right time to introduce my child to reading?
Now! Children of all ages benefit from reading. Don’t worry if your infant wants to chew on the books when teething; plenty of our family favorites have bite marks on them.
My toddler won’t sit still when I try to read to them. What do I do?
That’s okay - and normal for a toddler. Just keep reading and they might circle back to you. Even if your toddler isn’t sitting right there next to you, they can still listen and begin to understand that story time is fun and special. Reading to toddlers also helps them build those language skills and introduces them to new words.
My toddler only wants to read the same book!
Mine too! There are some books they just couldn’t get enough of. Use this book time as an opportunity for learning beyond words. You can interact with the pictures by asking your little one questions about what you see, to count items or even find colors. For example: Count the number of apples in the tree, ask what color the car is or have them point to where the monkey is hiding.
How can I find the time to teach my child how to read?
This is a great way to be creative and use your “virtual village.” Grandparents make for great listeners and reaching out to read to them not only helps your child practice their skills but also maintains that connection to our loved ones while we are apart. I’ve done video calls to nieces and nephews so they can share in our story time when reading to my own children. Now, the cousins video call each other without me sometimes and share books and giggles.
How do I know what books my child should be reading?
If reading for school, your child’s teacher can help direct you to what book level they are at. If those book levels have you confused, check out scholastic.com for further explanations. When reading for fun, go with what they are interested in! If your child is an advanced reader, one tip is to try to find stories where the main character is the same age as them. Elementary age children may not be interested in the teenage romance that occurs in young adult chapter books.
If you have concerns about your child and their ability to read, talk to their teacher and reach out to your pediatrician. For additional articles and tips on reading, as well as other useful parenting information, please visit the American Academy of Pediatrics website, healthychildren.org.
Written by Dr. Hailey Nelson, pediatrician at the Charlie Mitchell Children's Center on Valley Children's Hospital campus in Madera and core faculty member of Valley Children’s Pediatric Residency Program, Affiliated with Stanford University School of Medicine
A Note from the Author
For safety tips, please join me as I host the Safe Kids Central California Lunch and Learn sessions on Safe Kids Central California’s Facebook page. For each episode, I’ll be interviewing guest experts on a variety of topics and taking questions from parents and kids. I hope to see you there on Wednesday, March 3 at 1 p.m. as I learn more about smoke detectors and fire prevention!