Here on Frog on a Blog, I’ve been saying for years that literacy is the jump-off point from which all of life’s successes take flight. Many of us take reading for granted, but did you know that some people can’t read street signs, or menus, or cereal boxes, let alone job applications, instruction manuals, or other important documents. If children are introduced to books and reading early on, their chances of becoming strong readers and ultimately successful in life increase substantially. The best way to start is by reading picture books together.
Please welcome back author and literacy advocate Susan Day. Susan’s article 5 Ways to Make Storytime the Best Time Ever appeared on Frog on a Blog last year. Today, Susan has returned with suggestions on how grandparents (or parents) can use picture books to help their grandkids learn to read and, hopefully, fall in love with reading in the process.
How To Use Picture Books To Help Your Grandkids Fall in Love with Reading
by Susan Day
Learning to read is one of the most important tasks any child has to learn.
It is right up there with learning to ride a bicycle, learning to swim, and later on, learning to drive a car. However, many might argue that learning to read is so much more important, and for good reason.
Without basic literacy skills, a child’s future career, job prospects, and even happiness will be compromised. One of the saddest things I have ever come across was meeting an adult who couldn’t advance their career because they simply couldn’t read or write well. This not only meant never earning more money, but it affected their ability to prepare for retirement, and of course, their self-esteem.
So where do we begin and what can we do?
All children have an innate love of pictures and funny stories. They seem to be hardwired to respond to bright colors, and magical tales. Toddlers and preschoolers like nothing more than cuddling up to a parent or a grandparent, and sharing the special memories only a book can offer.
Picture books offer children so much enjoyment, but is just buying a book and reading it to a child enough?
Is there something else we can do to build a love of books, and a desire to read?
Picture Books Created For All Children
Picture books have been specially written, designed and illustrated to appeal to their young readers. The images are bright, large and some often have delightful quirky things hidden inside them. As well, the text is simple enough to keep a child’s attention.
Look for books which have large text. This way your child can read along with and track the words with their fingers. Sound out individual letters and blended sounds, and ask what other things begin with these sounds.
Encourage your child to look at the shape of the letters and the words as they appear on the page. Once they have done this a few times, you might like to begin to point out other places where these words appear including signs, packaging and, of course, other books.
Take Time to Study the Illustrations
We are all in too much of a hurry today with some parents rushing to finish reading because they have so many other things to do.
However, to really build a strong bond and understanding of how a book works, point out the illustrations and ask questions.
What is that character doing?
What color is this or that?
Do you think the character is nice, angry or sad?
Stop and Ask, What’s Going to Happen Next?
One thing children love to do is predict what is going to happen next in the story. Shut the book at a certain point and ask your child what he or she thinks is going to happen. If they don’t know or seem confused give them some options. Such as:
Do you think Goldilocks is going to drive a car next?
Where do you think the Three Bears were when Goldilocks came into the house? At the shops or at the park? Do you think they were at the movies?
Can you imagine what Little Red Riding Hood had in her basket? If she was visiting you, what would you like her to bring?
Predicting the text encourages engagement and involvement rather than just passively accepting what happens next.
Make the Book Relatable to Your Child’s Life
While many stories and fairy tales seem distant or fantasy based, there will always be aspects that can be related to a child’s life.
They might have a dog like the character in the story. They may not like the dark or they may love to sing, for example.
When a character’s parents do something funny or strange, you might ask if they know any parents who do those things too.
When a child can relate the actions or behavior of a character to their own lives, it makes the story more real and believable. They build a connection with the characters and the story that has a real meaning, even though the plot might be fantasy based.
With this in mind, don’t forget that many old fairy tales were written as warnings to children about how to behave and what to be frightened of in their world.
Next time you sit down to read to your child keep in mind how important it is to build a strong connection with reading, and grow a love of books in the heart and mind of your child.
Susan Day is a passionate author, educator and, grandmother. She wants to empower all parents and grandparents to build meaningful relationships with their grandchildren. Her first non-fiction book was written to explore changes in grandparenting, and teaches the reader how to create their own Grandparenting Philosophy. Discover the Top 10 Things Happy Grandparents Never Regret Doing.