Words by Paige Townley
There are obviously many reasons why reading is important for children. It’s a fundamental part of life, as it is required for them to succeed not only in school, but in life. Reading helps improve a child’s vocabulary, it leads to better comprehension, it improves critical thinking and analytical skills, and even helps improve memory—and that’s just to name a few. “Reading helps with so many things,” said Dr. Amy McCollum, a pediatrician at Midtown Pediatrics in Birmingham. “Reading also helps with a child’s language development, creativity, and social and emotional development. These are things we all want for our children, and reading can be a crucial part of it.”
Building those reading habits, however, don’t start when children are in kindergarten and start learning to read. It starts long before, notes Dr. McCollum, practically at birth. “Reading is important from birth, so parents should start reading to their baby very early on,” she says. “Just like we’re trying to encourage children with other healthy habits at a very early age, such as eating their vegetables, reading is very similar. We want to start reading to them from the very beginning.”
Here are five tips from Dr. McCollum to help parents improve their child’s reading habits and create reading enthusiasts for life.
Schedule it Out
Setting a time every day that’s dedicated to reading together is a great way to create the habit for a child. It can also create a time that they actively look forward to. “Many parents choose to read with their child at bedtime, and that’s great if that’s what works for them,” Dr. McCollum says.
No Screens Allowed
Children of any age are always going to follow their parents’ lead, so when it’s time to read, turn off the TV and put the phone away. “That encourages the bonding time with parents,” she says.
Let the Child’s Interest Take Centerstage
Every toddler tends to have a favorite topic, whether it’s animals, trucks, or princesses. Try to find books that speak to those interests. “Even following the child’s interest and letting him or her pick out the book, stay very involved and sit down and read with them,” Dr. McCollum adds.
Make Books Accessible
Dr. McCollum also agrees to keep books around the house, and all of the books don’t have to be purchased. Weekly outings to the library for a child to switch out books should also be on the agenda. “Pick a day of the week to go to the library together,” she says. “Just like the scheduled reading time, it’s something a child can look forward to.”
Repetitiveness is OK
It’s easy for parents to get hung up on the fact their child always wants to read the same book over and over, but that’s normal and shouldn’t be discouraged, Dr. McCollum says. “That’s actually great because it’s helping build creativity, vocabulary, attention span, and understanding of language, among many other things,” she adds.