Parenting tips: Unique ways to read to children at every stage - Hindustan Times
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Parenting tips: Unique ways to read to children at every stage

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
May 25, 2024 03:52 PM IST

For parents, reading is a profound bonding experience that fosters growth and development at every stage of a child’s life. Here's how to read to children

Childhood is a continuous journey of exploration, with every experience contributing to a child's learning and growth where reading is one such experience, that goes beyond just a collection of words - it opens the doors to imagination, empathy and understanding. For parents, reading is a profound bonding experience that fosters growth and development at every stage of a child’s life.

Parenting tips: Unique ways to read to children at every stage (Photo by Working Solutions)
Parenting tips: Unique ways to read to children at every stage (Photo by Working Solutions)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Anita Madan, Head of Curriculum Development at EuroKids, suggested some unique ways to incorporate reading into your child’s routine -

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  1. Make it interactive: Engaging young minds is more than just reciting words; it's about dynamic storytelling filled with gestures, animated voices, and interactive conversations. These vibrant narrations not only educate but also bring joy to both the storyteller and the listener as the characters in the story come to life.
  2. Let them discover things through reading: Books are not just stories but window to world beyond our own. They introduce young readers to new ideas, cultures, and perspectives, broadening their horizons. As children flip through the pages of a book, they embark on adventures, explore distant lands, and meet diverse characters. Introduce them to books that feature simple, high-contrast images and vibrant colours to captivate their attention and stimulate visual development.
  3. Incorporate sensory stimulation: Books with textures, flaps and other interactive elements engage children’s senses, fostering a deeper connection with the story. As little fingers trace the textured pages and curious minds explore hidden surprises, they develop a deeper understanding of the world around them, and the reading experience becomes a multisensory journey.
  4. Foster language skills from the beginning: Language is the foundation of communication, and it's never too early to start building it. Every word spoken and heard helps shape a child’s language abilities. Reading sessions provide a rich tapestry of vocabulary, introducing young learners to new words and expressions. Point to objects in the book as you label them. This simple act will help them associate words with their meanings and hone their communication skills, empowering them to express themselves effectively.
  5. Let them visualise: In the world of imagination, storytelling reigns supreme. For pre-schoolers, reading serves as a catalyst for creative exploration, igniting the spark of imagination and creating amazing adventures. As they immerse themselves in the world of imagination, children hone their creative thinking skills, learning to think outside the box and envision endless possibilities.

Reading to children is a transformative journey that shapes young minds and strengthens family bonds as these shared reading experiences lay the foundation for a lifelong love for books and learning. Aanchal Vasandani, VP Content at VIBGYOR Group of Schools, opined, “One of the best ways to promote early literacy and a love of books in children is to read to them. Tailoring an approach to their developmental stage makes the experience more beneficial and engaging. For infants aged 0 to 5 months, using lullabies, sing-along stories, non-toxic chew books and board books with textures introduces them to language and rhythm.”

She added, “As they progress to the 6 to 15-month stage, lap reading with picture books, interactive books and story dramatisation can captivate their interest. These activities not only entertain but also stimulate cognitive development and language skills in them. Transitioning into the preschool years, interactive storytelling with puppets, thoughtful questioning about the narratives, and the creation of cosy reading corners serve as portals to a world of imagination and critical thinking. Encouraging shared reading experiences and selecting books tailored to their interests further enriches their vocabulary and keeps them enthralled.”

Engaging with a book requires children to focus and concentrate for extended periods, which can significantly enhance their attention spans. Aanchal Vasandani explained, “This practice of sustained focus is crucial for their academic and personal lives. As children enter elementary and middle years, the journey of literacy deepens. Chapter books become companions in shared adventures while setting reading challenges ignites a sense of exploration and accomplishment. Creative activities like illustrating scenes or crafting alternative endings empower young minds to weave their narratives, fostering a deeper connection with the written word. By adapting our approach to match each developmental stage, we cultivate a rich tapestry of literacy that accompanies children throughout their lives.”

Bringing his expertise to the same, Raj Singhal, Co-Founder and CEO at Footprints Childcare, said, “In the beautiful journey of nurturing young minds, how we read to children evolves as they grow. From the gentle bedtime stories to the more interactive adventures, each stage offers charm and significance. During infancy, reading is more about the soothing rhythm of a parent's voice and the comfort it brings. It's about creating a sense of security and connection through simple words and sounds. As toddlers explore the world around them, reading becomes more interactive. It's about colorful pictures, engaging stories, and letting their imagination run as they begin to understand the magic of storytelling.”

As toddlers become more curious explorers of their world, reading transforms into a dynamic experience. Raj Singhal revealed, "Repetition is key to this process, as reading the same stories repeatedly allows toddlers to make connections between the words and the pictures. This builds familiarity and a sense of comfort, encouraging them to participate and even "read" along. Choosing books with recurring words and phrases enhances this experience, as the delightful predictability helps toddlers recall the story and chime in with familiar lines, boosting their confidence and engagement. To further spark curiosity, weave questions into the narrative while exploring the illustrations. Asking questions like "What colour is the cat?" or "Where is the ball going?" keeps toddlers engaged and strengthens their comprehension skills. However, reading goes beyond books. During grocery shopping, narrate your selections, turning everyday objects into story elements. For instance, saying "Look, it's the red apple just like in our book!" creates a sense of connection between the fictional world and their own experiences."

As children grow older, the stories they enjoy become more diverse, reflecting their changing interests and curiosity and from fairy tales to real-life adventures, reading becomes a way for them to learn, explore, and make sense of the world. Raj Singhal elaborated, “Adolescence is a time when reading offers a refuge—a place where young minds can escape, empathise and find inspiration. It's about discovering characters they can relate to, learning from their experiences and gaining insights into themselves and others. Adolescence is a complex time when reading takes on a new role. It becomes a refuge, a space for escape and exploration. Teens crave characters they can connect with, grappling with similar emotions and experiences. Through these stories, they develop empathy, gain insights into themselves and others, and even discover new passions. However, traditional reading habits shift during this stage. Teens become fiercely independent, seeking out content that reflects their own unique interests. This might not always involve physical books. The rise of digital media has opened doors to vlogs, podcasts, and even fanfiction – a genre where teens rewrite stories with their own twists.”

At every stage, the way we read to children plays a crucial role in their development. It's not just about teaching them to read—it's about promoting a love for stories, nurturing their imagination and helping them grow into empathetic and thoughtful individuals.

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