One of my earliest memories involves a book. I don’t remember its name and am not sure what the story was about. However, I vividly remember its blue pages with pictures of cakes and other baked goods. I also remember my mom, an avid reader herself, always bringing me new books to read.
There are many benefits to introducing books at an early age. From keeping children entertained to developing vocabulary and critical thinking skills, studies show it is never too early to begin. Even reading to newborns has been proved to be beneficial. But with millions of stories available in the market choosing books for the little ones may be tricky. Moreover, parents may not know how to properly introduce them into the kids’ lives. But cheer up; it is almost impossible to mess this up.
Babies and Toddlers
This age group often suffers from a short attention span so don’t expect them to sit through a whole story. Instead choose books that are visually interesting and portray simple concepts present in their lives (family, animals, toys, food, etc.). Also popular are books that engage other senses like those with textured patches, mirrors and other tricks. Sturdiness is important for this age group as these books are pulled, thrown and often chewed on. Still, try to look for different materials like cloth, board and plastic.
Don’t focus too much on the story as your baby will rarely sit through it. Instead let her explore the book at her own pace. Use a sing-songy voice to talk about what she sees (e.g.: “Look, a ball. You have a ball too!”).
Two to Five
From this age on it is a great idea to get the kids involved in the selection. Try to bring them with you to the library or bookstore so they can pick out a few books themselves. At this age most kids are not reading yet so images are still very important. Try to find stories with which they can relate and that contain plenty of repetition and rhyme. As you read the book make sure your child can see the pictures, play with your intonation (voices, moods, etc.) and don’t be afraid to interrupt your reading to discuss aspects of the book.
Five to Eight
At this time most children starting to read on their own but they still need some guidance. Start by choosing materials that are at their reading level and that interest them. Also, choose simple stories with enough images to balance pages full of text. This is a great time to introduce children to different types of materials such as fiction and non-fiction, novels, comics, magazines, and joke and fact books. Keep in mind that these readers are still learning and perfecting their reading so be patient and ready to help.
Eight to Ten
By this age most children have strengthened their reading skills and are ready for new challenges. You can now look for longer more complex stories and series. This is a great time to for children to discover new genres and find out what they like.
Ten and Up
Kids are now ready to dive into full-fledged novels and books. Look for awards-winners, popular books, classics and topics of interest to them. In the book world this age group is referred as Young Adult (YA).
If you want some more information or suggestions visit your public library or the children’s section of your local bookstore. Also many government agencies and non-profits offer information and tips on the internet. I like Read to Me! and The Canadian Children’s Book Centre
Image: George Hodan