This is the third of a series of three special blog posts that look at how a young child’s brain is “wired” to learn – be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them. Join me as we share exciting new findings and ways we can support our children’s extraordinary brain development through reading.
Three Generations of Bookworms
As a child, I much preferred digging in to a mystery book than helping my mother with housework. However, my mother didn’t really grumble about my constant reading. In fact, despite our limited means, she willingly sacrificed buying clothes for herself so I could get all the Scholastic books I wanted from the monthly flyer I brought home from school.
And she was right – I found every opportunity I could to read. Each afternoon, you could find me reading as I strolled my paper route, holding a paperback in one hand while whirling the newspaper with the other (multi-tasking also comes naturally for me!). To this day, reading is one of my favorite pastimes, whether I’m perusing an informational book at my desk, the latest education journal on a plane, or an adventure novel by the pool.
It’s probably no surprise that my children fell in love with reading too. Their father and I read to them, with them and around them constantly. Their favorite birthday presents were the gift certificates to Walden Books they got from their aunt. They couldn’t wait to go to the mall to exchange their certificates for real books. My smile was as wide as theirs when they strode to the checkout counter, carefully balancing stacks of books with their chins. My granddaughter Jordyn is growing up to be a bookworm too – she has many of her mother’s childhood books on her own shelf, and I’m delighted to revisit them with her!
Model a Love of Reading
Modeling frequent reading the way my family did nurtures a love of reading in the next generation. We become a role model every time we read with our children or in front of them. Frequent reading helps children form more connections between brain cells (synapses) and avoid losing connections to pruning, the process by which the brain deletes unused synapses.
As with any skill, the more we read, the better we read. The better we read, the more we like to read. The more we like to read, the more we read … and so the cycle of loving reading and connecting brain cells continues.
The sooner we begin this cycle with our children, the more they will learn. This doesn’t mean you should start flashing sight word cards in front of your newborn. But you can cuddle your baby on your lap and enthusiastically read a story with her using different voices for each character, pointing to interesting words, talking about the illustrations, and asking questions about the plot.
Not only will your little one engage with the book and soak up your enjoyment of reading, she will gain new vocabulary and knowledge for future learning. Your baby may not be speaking yet, but be assured she is listening, watching and absorbing the words and pictures in books. Before you know it, she will be “reading” on her own like 20-month-old Layla in this video.
Layla’s mom didn’t teach her to read by drilling letter sounds or assigning worksheets. She simply took time to read with her every day. Young children imitate the behaviors they see and language they hear. So if you want your child to love to read and read well, let her see you reading.
The Best Way to READ
When you read with your child, try the techniques in this video from the Atlanta Speech School:
- Repeat books
- Engage and enjoy
- Ask questions
- Do more
Reading with your children is entertaining and engaging and helps wire their brains for successful learning. So turn off the television, put down the smartphone or tablet and READ! Be careful – your child just might turn into a lifelong bookworm.