Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tricks, Traps, and Transitions: Getting Your Toddler to Read

If I had a dollar for every time I have heard the parent of a toddler say “He won’t sit still to read!” I would be typing this from my own private island.  Toddlers and their capricious ways, Toddlers and their lack of focus, Toddler and their toys - Yes, those can all be barriers – or speed bumps if you will – in journey to helping your child becoming a lover of books and learning.  BUT, there is hope!  There are ways to work around all those things to remind your child that they really do already love to read.

Lowering Expectations:
When I think of a reluctant reader, I usually first imagine a child and a parent that are overwrought.  So if the first problem with your child’s interest in reading is that you feel overwhelmed by the task, then I’m here to help.  First, not everyone is comfortable reading aloud.  Don’t worry, your child is not your second grade teacher, correcting every missed word and embarrassing you in front of the class.  Your voice is soothing to them.  They LOVE to hear you read, even if it is not your favorite task.  Next, while there will be moments when you are snuggled together in a quiet, Norman Rockwell moment of familial bliss it is not a necessity when reading.   Finally, and I've said this before, you as the reader should be kind to yourself.  Yes, you may need to read a book you hate once a day, but if that is the case, choose other books to read that you love.  If you get resistance from your child, see below.

Pushing past resistance, tricks for capturing your child’s interest in reading:
Start without them.  Open the book, begin to read as if it is the thing you most want to do in the world.  9 times out of 10, the child will slowly notice that they are missing something interesting going on in the room. 
Don’t expect them to sit still.  Allow them to wander and play while you read.  Most often, they are still listening. 
Sneak attacks: One of my daughter’s favorite things is when I give her a “horsey” ride on my back.  Well at least once a week that horse takes a little break by the bookshelf and my girl gets the treat of a reading session from her favorite perch.  This also works when at parks and playgroups.   They are expecting to play, but I bet you would be surprised at how amenable those kids are for a little reading break.  Even just a small change of scenery can change your child’s interest level.  Lie down on the floor and begin reading.  Put a little pillow next to your head and I bet before you know it, the apple of your eye will be looking skyward at that book.

Whatever you do, don’t stop.  Children need to be read to even as they begin to read themselves.  If you can remove their distractions and find a way through the developmental challenges, then your efforts and creativity will be returned in spades.

Photo evidence:

Dad Starts to Read...

Child begins to show interest.  Dad, unfazed, continues.
Engagement!  And a happy story time is had by all.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

New Feature: Books for Older Children

It's no secret I have a toddler, but that doesn't mean that we cannot occasionally fast forward to find meaningful and wonderful children's literature intended for a school-aged child.

Enter The Great Cake Mystery by Alexander McCall Smith.

I quite liked the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency books, and I was not disappointed with this prequel.  It has similar feeling - slightly predictable, but none-the-less enjoyable plot-lines, simple enough language that it could be a good read-aloud book for a patient preschooler or kindergartner (though a chapter book, could maybe even be a one-night read-alouder!) or a book for an no-longer beginning reader.  Alexander McCall Smith in his Note To Readers calls it a book for children under 10.

There are some moral lessons intertwined with the plot, but my favorite part - of this book and the Ladies No. 1 books is the very lovely way in which Alexander McCall Smith describes the simple, but exotic to us, life of this girl in Botswana.  I challenge anyone to resist the story of a father confronting a lion or of the river that flows in the wrong direction.  They are charming.  I am charmed.

And much like the adult series, it was over too soon and I was left wanting more.