Studies across time and geographies agree that reading to your child provides them with innumerable benefits. Children who are read to as infants have a stronger vocabulary, and those who read for fun consistently show higher academic achievement in both school and college. In a classroom setting, it is easy to tell which children have a culture of reading at home – they are the ones who listen attentively, and gravitate to both storybooks as well as the opportunity to write for themselves. Now, if you were to approach a child with this compelling data, would it make them sit and listen to you read a book?
In the Montessori environment, children do not work with metal insets in order to improve finger dexterity and become ready for writing. They move towards metal insets because of the joy the material inspires. They don’t do sums because they want to grow up and earn high salaries. They add numbers because the stamp game material makes it seem like fun!
So too with reading. When books spark joy in the child, learning will follow. When we read to our children, we cannot focus on the academic benefits or treat it as a chore with a long term goal in mind. Instead, we should read to them because we want to; because the experience of reading together is a treat in itself. This in turn will make the experience meaningful for the child.
If you aren’t naturally a reader, see if you can take your child to storytellings so that you can begin understanding how stories can be read. YouTube offers plenty of read-alouds, which will also help ensure you pick up a story you enjoy. When in doubt, always pick the book that appeals to you. You can be sure that your delight will trickle down to your child.
Building a reading routine also helps. Find a consistent slot when you and your child both know it’s a special time. At this time, gadgets are put away and both your attention is fully focused on books. Before bed, right after school, or first thing in the morning: see when you are both at your calmest. If possible, read in the same cozy nook so that it becomes a ritual, and your child can access books placed near this area by themselves.
Get ready for repetitive reading as your child slowly processes the story and takes different elements from each retelling. Do not get disheartened by a child walking away after a page, or not picking up books by themselves. If they can listen to a page, that is still progress! Come back again when you are ready. Ultimately, when you can make reading an experience that you and your child treasure, you will create not just the foundation for academic success but memories to cherish for life.