“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.”— Dr. Seuss
A woman once asked Albert Einstein how she could make her son more intelligent. His response? Read him fairy tales. Fairy tales, he explained, would help her child’s brain pay attention to detail, problem solve, predict, make meaning, and experience emotion. Children who are read to from birth quickly acquire the ability to listen, concentrate, relax, and await the desire to hear the stories they love.
According to Jim Trelease, a noted educator and author of the The Read-Aloud Handbook, there are four factors that appear in the home environment of almost every early reader.
- The child is read to regularly, and his or her parents are avid readers.
- A wide variety of printed material are in the home.
- Paper and pencil are available so that children can scribble and draw
- Family members simulate the child’s interest in reading and writing by answering countless questions, buying books, taking the child to the library, displaying the child’s work, and writing stories that the child dictates.
How to Encourage a Love of Reading
Begin reading to your child the day you bring him or her home from the hospital. If you can talk to your child, you can read to your child. When a parent reads to a child, the connections in a parent’s brain begin to take place in the child’s brain, too. Prioritize reading in your home. Cut down on screen time to make time for reading stories together. There’s really no such thing as not enough time to read. We make time for things that are important to us.
As your children get older, encourage them to read aloud to you. You can even take turns reading to each other. Remember this soft rule: a child’s attention span is equal to his or her age. So if your child is 5 years old, read to him for at least 5 minutes. If she is 10 years old, read to her for ten minutes. If you see your child is engaged and having fun, keep going. Gradually lengthen the time spent reading aloud as your child becomes accustomed to the act or as you see them enjoying it. When the brain enjoys what it is doing, our attention span is considerably lengthened.
Most importantly, remember that you are a model for your children. If they see their parents reading, it’ll become a behavioral norm for them, too. Take a trip to your local bookstore or library and have everyone in the family pick out a book to read. Then one night a week, instead of watching TV together, you can read together. You can either read one book aloud, or you can read your books individually.
Learn more about the importance of reading to and with your children in my bestselling book, Preparing Children for Success in School and Life: 20 Ways to Increase Your Child’s Brain Power.