March is National Reading Month, and what better way to celebrate than by diving into a book? As you read, encourage your child to participate. At age 3, your little one can begin interacting with the story by helping to turn pages, naming objects or completing sentences and rhymes in favorite books.
This kind of participation in story reading enhances memory, develops listening skills and promotes personal expression. It also fosters language development and creativity, because children understand they have a part to play as the story unfolds.
Use these tips to strengthen your 3-year-old’s language skills as you read together:
- Choose the “right” book. Books with simple language, bold illustrations and captions are ideal for interactive reading. Stories that reflect familiar situations—naptime, mealtime or potty time—resonate because a child identifies with the characters. Books with rhythm or refrain, like “The Listening Walk” by Paul Showers, help your child anticipate story flow. Question and answer books encourage built-in serve-and-return communication to actively engage him.
- Pre-read and rehearse. Read the book straight through once, changing your voice to match the character in the story. Think of prompts and questions to engage your child, involving her in later readings. Modeling fluid, expressive reading makes reading fun and inspires your little one to pick up a book and “read” when you’re not around. Children often choose books that adults have read to them to explore on their own.
- Stop and talk. Encourage listening and participation by asking questions and giving your child time to respond. Certain pages will become cues for children to demonstrate comprehension, especially if you first ask a question about the character’s action. Stop and let her tell you what she’s just heard and ask a follow-up question like, “What do you think Harry will do next?” If you ask open-ended questions that may not have a right or wrong answer, your child will be developing critical thinking skills and it will make reading more interesting.
- Mix it up. Build a library of your child’s favorite books, share your childhood favorites and shop for new books together. If that unpredictable attention span starts to wane during reading, take a physical break or pick a different book. Bring books to life by referencing characters and plots outside of story time
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