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Give Your Toddler a Head Start

Give Your Toddler a Head Start

Do you want your child to be a good reader? Pre-reading skills can start as early as babyhood. Here are a few tips to help you wire your child's brain for reading:

1. Crawl. I know it sounds weird, but crawling wires the brain for lots of stuff, so it's important that children do a bunch of it. Some babies want to crawl, so that's great. But others aren't so fond of it. If you have a baby who wants to bypass crawling in favor of cruising around the furniture on feet, do whatever you can to help them crawl. Get down on the floor and crawl with them if you have to! Crawling gets the brain ready to read, so it's super-important that this development takes place.

2. When you read to your child, follow along under the words you're reading with your index finger. This does a couple of things. Eyes follow moving objects, so your child's eye will automatically follow your finger back and forth. This develops that left-to-right tracking that is essential for reading English. (Incidentally, teachers are finding today that many children come into school with great down-up eye muscle tracking from playing video games, but terrible left-to-right tracking.)

It also helps your child understand that those funny looking symbols (we call them letters) have something to do with what you're saying out loud.

3. Go beyond the words on the page. Stop and ask your child questions about what you're reading! Ask them if they can find the doggie in the picture. Tell them to make the doggie go "woof," or have them pat the doggie. Ask them what color the daisy is. If children are older, ask them to make predictions about what they think might happen next or question them as to how they think the character in the story might be feeling.

All of this develops language skills and helps with imagination.

4. Put GREAT inflection into whatever you're reading. Make the story come alive with your voice. No one wants to listen to monotone, so show a child how to read by doing it really well yourself. This will also teach children that books are exciting.

5. Read the same books over and over. Repetition is incredibly important for young children. So you may be sick of reading that beloved book about bulldozers, but your little boy wants to hear it again. Read it like it's the first time. Know that this repetition is helping your child's brain development significantly.

6. Read A LOT. As much as you can, really. While we speak in fragmented, run-on sentences (possibly with poor grammar), books use pristine, colorful, beautifully-crafted sentences. Do you want your child to be well-spoken with a large vocabulary? READ TO THEM.

I want to point out that reading to children is about a thousand times better than watching television together. Turn off the TV and get out a good book. I don't care what age your kids are! Reading to kids regardless of whether or not they can already read themselves is a terrific way to bond, develop imagination, and seed some great conversations.

Reading to children takes effort, which is why so many parents struggle to do it. But of all the things in the world you could do for your kid, this is truly one of the best. So don't shortcut it. Get busy and READ!