Best books to read to kids under six Image Credit: Shutterstock
Aside from keeping your children fed, clean and safe, one of the most important things you can do is read aloud to them and the earlier you start, the better. A 2014 American Academy of Pediatrics study states that reading to infants is actually an essential part of their primary care.
The paper, published in Pediatrics, says, Regularly reading with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which in turn builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.
The quality and quantity of book reading in early infancy can predict the size of a childs vocabulary, and reading as a child has even been linked to higher income jobs and more professional roles in adulthood.
But wont I feel strange reading to a two-week-old who keeps falling asleep, you ask? What happens if my six-month gnaws off the corner of the book? And, how do I get my toddler to sit still? Experts say you dont need to worry about that.
In fact, research shows that if you allow your baby to safely explore books yes, even with their mouth or let your toddler skip through the pages, you teach them that reading is a safe, fun and positive experience.
Here are the best types of book to enjoy with your child from when theyre babies, to toddlerhood and beyond:
We begin developing the language skills required for reading when we are just babies, Jemma Gadher, speech and language therapist at The Developing Child Centre in Dubai, explains. When you read to your baby, his or her brain is rapidly learning the rules of language that are necessary for reading, and speaking.
At this age, dont worry too much about what youre reading. While babies may not understand what youre saying, theyll love the connection and may reward you with a smile or an excited kick.
Your baby might want to grab or bite the book and, as long as its safe, touching is encouraged. If your little one starts to cry, look away, arch his or her back, or close his or her eyes, take a break.
Nada Iskandar, KG1 teacher and year leader at Dubai International Academy, explains that babies are drawn to shapes and big pictures. Their colour vision is usually developed by four months so include books with vibrant pictures. Board books are great because theyre easy to handle. Look for books that have lift-the-flaps, mirrors or pop-ups. The more interactive they are, the more interested your baby is likely to be.
Offer babies simple stories with colourful pictures. Repeated rhymes can encourage language and memory development, with some babies recognising characters, pictures and stories, and even starting to mouth along.
From 12 months old, start asking more complicated questions like, Where do you see the sun? and see if your toddler gestures. Toddlers may start requesting their favourite stories now.
If your toddler runs away when you read, dont take it personally. Kids need to move around at this age. Keep reading, and your toddler will reconnect when theyre ready. Adopt a playful attitude by asking your toddler to act like a character, or get in on the action yourself.
Ask him or her to label objects using simple sounds or words, like woof! for a dog, or give them some responsibility by getting them to turn the pages. Asking them what is happening (who is carrying the watermelon?) helps build language and thinking skills. If your toddler can talk, pause before saying a favourite line and see if they can fill the gap.
At this stage you can ask more challenging questions, like What do you think the girl in the book should do?, or try to connect the book with your childs life.
By three, your child may start reading to you based on pictures. Toddlers love repetition, so dont be put off if they keep requesting the same book.
The Developing Child Centres Jemma says that books that include a clear beginning, middle and end are great. You might notice symbolic understanding developing, where kids begin to understand other representations of an item, for example, a doll representing a baby.
At this age children have usually developed a theory of mind understanding that they are autonomous beings and therefore others are too, says Louise Edensor, senior lecturer in media and education and campus programme coordinator for the International Foundation programme at Middlesex University. This means they can understand deception in stories, so they will follow a tale that perhaps offers the reader something that the characters dont know.
Traditionally, this is the age that many children embark on that exciting adventure of learning to read themselves. But what happens if your child is not reading by the age of six?
Comprehension skills are usually in full gear now, so some children are ready for more words and fewer pictures, KG1 teacher Nada says.
Having said that, its all about knowing what works best for your child. There are many milestones in the pre-reading stages that children should reach before actually beginning to learn to read. Phonological awareness and comprehension stand at the forefront of these skills. Some children flourish at the expected age of around five or six. Needless to say, some children just may not be ready. If you make reading fun, theyll keep at it. Thats the main thing.
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The best books to read with children at every age - Gulf News