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Adventures of Reading Begin In Infancy and Last A Lifetime

by Micky Smith

“Weed to me! Weed to me!” my nephew used to say when he just a toddler. He loved for someone to read to him. I loved it too! Our reading time was very special when my nephews were young; it’s a memory I still treasure.

Learning to read and write is an exciting adventure for a child that begins during infancy and continues thorough life. As your child learns that books are for reading rather than chewing, he will also begin to learn that words and pictures are different.

Reading development in children follows some predictable stages. Here are some ways you can help your child at these various stages:

*Exploring—The “exploring” stage begins in infancy when infants and toddlers touch, taste, and chew books. This is a child’s introduction to books and reading. Books for infants and toddlers should be made of sturdy board, cloth or vinyl. Reading to a child snuggled on your lap can set the stage for a lifelong love of books and learning.

*Repetition/Anticipation—As children grow older, they begin to copy parents and older siblings by “pretend reading.” This is a wonderful time to allow your child to choose books he likes to “read.” Children like to hear the same story over and over; they also like to predict what will happen next. Hearing the same story helps children understand connections. As they learn that stories have a beginning, middle and an end, they learn to retell the story with amazing accuracy! At this point, children are interested in detail. If you skip a sentence or paragraph, you may find you child protesting quite loudly!

*Words as symbols—During this next stage of reading development, children begin to understand that written words are symbols for ideas and thoughts.

*Identifying and matching words—At this stage children begin to identify and match words. Following the words with your finger as you read helps your child understand that in the English language we read from left to right. Some other languages are read from right to left or up and down on a page.

*Focus on meaning—Finally, children begin to focus on the meaning of words. As you read to your child, stop from time to time and ask questions about the story. Ask “what if” and “what do you think will happen next” questions to stimulate your child’s thinking. Sometimes it is fun to let your child make up another ending for the story or to act out the story in a skit.

Read with your child every day. It is particularly important to continue reading to children and allowing them to read to you throughout their preschool, elementary and middle school years. Encourage older children to read to younger siblings. Let your child help you read a recipe as you cook; show your child how you must read and write when you pay your bills. Record a favorite story on tape so your child can still enjoy a bedtime story when you must be away. A great idea for grandparents is to read and record stories to send to grandchildren when separated by distance. This is a wonderful way to keep families connected!

Creating a love for reading in young children is one of the best things you can do to ensure your child’s future success in school.


For Release: Week of 08/23/04

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