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The most important thing you can do to help your children become good readers is to read or tell stories aloud with them every day. Seating children in front of a video of “Peter Pan" is a very poor substitute for hearing the story from a parent’s lap read with an expressive voice. If you want to grow couch potatoes, use videos. If you really want to grow good readers you have to be a part of the experience. Here are tips to make reading a positive experience in your child’s life.
- Get your child his/her own library card and visit the children's library regularly.
- Set a good example. Keep books and publications out and available and let your children see you enjoy reading them.
- Ask children to talk about what they read or what you read to them.
- Help children act out their own favorite stories with props and accessories as a creative way to build language skills and vocabulary.
- Let older children choose the books they want to read in order to further encourage the reading habit. You might want to read the same book your older child is reading and discuss it to build your child’s capacity for thought and insight. Siblings may want to have a special reading time at home together.
- Talk with the children about the concept of ‘quiet’ before you visit the library. Remind them how nice and quiet it is when you read to them at home, so it’s important to the people in the library to not be disturbed by noise. Discuss what it means to ‘whisper’.
- Encourage children to take care of books, so others can enjoy them too. Make sure hands are clean before handling a book and NEVER write or scribble in a book, especially if it is not yours and borrowed from the library.
- Use bookmarks to mark your page, never crease or ‘dog-ear’ the page. See activity below to make a bookmark.
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Your Library Visit Together
The public library is a wonderful resource for you and your child. Most lend not only books, but also music, videos, and even puppets and toys. Early library visits can lay the foundation for a lifelong love of books. Explore the children's library together and give your child a little independence on choosing and checking out books. Here are a couple of ideas to make this visit fun.
- Go on a letter hunt. Find as many letters as possible on book titles. Help your child find all the letters in his/her name. Then look for an alphabet book for your child to take home and enjoy.
- Have your child think of a special kind of book he would like to read. It could be a book with a favorite character or one about a special topic. Think about authors - does your child have a favorite? Let him introduce himself to the librarian and ask her to help him find this special book on the library shelf.
- Libraries are divided into two major sections: fiction (pretend stories) and nonfiction (factual books). Fiction books are put on the shelves in alphabetical order, according to the author’s last name. Nonfiction books are grouped by category. Therefore, all the books about animals are together. Then these are subdivided by specific groups; insects, reptiles, birds, etc.
- Set a limit on the number of books your child may check out. One idea is to let him check out as many books as his age. Have him count the books, stack them on the table from the largest to smallest and then carry them to the checkout counter. He will feel mature and proud!
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Make a Bookmark
At home, bring out the construction paper and craft supplies to make bookmarks for the entire family. This can be an extension project from your library visit. You might want to cover these special works of art with clear contact paper. It will preserve the life of the bookmark and make them sturdier to use.
A Counting Bookmark
Make a bookmark that helps children learn to count.
- Cardboard or poster board (2 inches by 6 inches)
- Crayons or markers
- Hole punch
- Invite your child to decorate the cardboard bookmark as she wishes.
- Use crayons, markers, or even stickers to make a colorful picture.
- When finished, punch five holes up and down the bookmark.
- Encourage your child to put her finger on a hole and to count from one to five. Challenge your child to count to ten by punching five holes on the other side.
Make library visits a healthy routine for your household. Check with your local children's library about preschool events held for the children. Keep these dates handy and plan trips to the library around them.