How we encourage early reading habits (and a Children's Day Giveaway)

Friday, October 09, 2015

[This post contains affiliate links.]

You know that reading is important, and is a good habit to inculcate in our kids. 

You know that reading helps the child strengthen his foundation in the language. 

But how do you shape that love for reading in your child?

Here's sharing the journey we have taken (since 10 years ago) to raise at least 2 avid readers who will pick up a book to read before breakfast, after they come home from school, before bedtime, whenever and wherever. (In my opinion, these strategies work best before the child reaches Primary One.)
Start young. 
We started our reading journey with each child when they were about 3 months old. Don't underestimate their ability to understand you when you read aloud to them. Read from a simple picture book or short story, but with consistent efforts, your child gets the idea of flipping the pages (this developmental milestone usually occurs around 1 year old) and associates the action with reading. 

Also, when the child hears enough of the same words, those words stay as part of their vocabulary and helps with speech development and sentence construction.

Select age- and content-appropriate books. 
When we select books for the kids, we go for books that are suitable for each child's cognitive and language development. This keeps them interested while we read. Choose books of a suitable difficulty level, with enough (not excessive) words and pictures to encourage speech and participation from the child. Short stories like The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, or Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell have simple sentences that repeat in the same form throughout the story. Also, books for toddlers and pre-schoolers should have colourful illustrations that are easy to interpret visually. 

What we found most useful when the kids were less than 5 years old was to have books that are of their favorite cartoon characters or what they were interested in. 

For Ch, she was in love with Dora for the longest time and we had books about Dora for her reading pleasure. She loved them so much and always requested for them to be read. L's were Thomas the train series and that got him hooked to reading. K is into animals and Peppa Pig so she flips through books of those themes. Now, she will say "Read book." in her sweet, gentle voice and pass us a book of her choice. 

We started exploring chapter books with Ch when she showed readiness to sit through longer story books. She was about 4 years old when ZY introduced Noddy-A Classic Treasury by Enid Blyton. He patiently read one chapter a day with her before bedtime and continued to do that even after she could read the book herself. 

To ease your headache of finding appropriate and good reads, you can refer to the list of winners of the Caldecott and Newberry awards, and the list of best kids' books published in the last 25 years. There are good souls who have done the hard work for you!

Read with them every day, even after they know how to read independently.

Reading is one of the bedtime routines we have established with the kids till now. They love to snuggle up their beds and read on their own, or they get Daddy to read a book to them. Even now when Ch and L can read themselves, ZY still reads aloud to them (more with L, as Ch thinks Daddy reads too slowly) when he is able to. This is important because the child gets to hear the words, especially the more difficult ones, and expands his vocabulary. His understanding deepens when he is able to clarify and question too. 

Let them hold a book - a REAL book.  
I tend to be a traditionalist. I love the simplicity of a print book and I want my children to appreciate books that come with the smell of newly printed pages, or the musty smell of yellow pages. I want them to have the tactile experience of flipping real pages and holding books of different weights. These are what give reading the oomph.  

Let them choose the book (most of the time).
This makes them more engaged and motivated to stay through the whole reading session, as their choice is respected. In our family, there is no problem with letting them choose the book, as most of the books we own have been curated before they are allowed a space on the bookshelf. 

When they go to the public library, we try and recommend better books to them. But if their choice is not too bad, we will usually go with their flow. A child whose reading interest is dictated strictly by his parents usually don't get too excited over reading.   

Make books accessible everywhere in the house.
We are book-junkies. Okay, maybe not to that extent, but we love buying books for ourselves and the children. Friends also pass us their pre-loved books, and the children get books as birthday presents very often. 

We organise the huge stash of books into 4 small reading areas. There are books in the children's room, our room, the dining area and living room. When books are easily accessible, there is a higher tendency that they get read more too. 

I place a shoebox of books suitable for K next to my bed (she sleeps in my room). And this is the usual sighting I get in the mornings.

Isn't this a pleasant sight for us parents?

Visit the public library.
The library is one good place to read more good books without burning a hole in your pockets. However, for babies and young toddlers, I prefer to own the book as they can read and re-read the same book and still benefit a lot from it. I am also more particular when it comes to the hygiene of a borrowed book. Definitely wouldn't want my baby to mouth a book that has dropped on the road by the previous borrower.  

Role-model reading habits.
I have heard friends complain that their children do not like to read. However, when asked if they have the habit of reading themselves, the common reply I get is no. Why do you think your child doesn't like reading then? 

Children pick up habits from people around them, particularly their parents. So, it is important that they see us reading books too! Older siblings can also role-model good reading habits for the younger ones. 

Bring a book (or two) along when they go out.
Instead of occupying their time with a smartphone or iPad, let them read and be entertained by the world in the book. It also gives you a peaceful time to shop/ eat, and makes long waiting time a lot more pleasant for everyone. 

[updated: Do hop over to Tan Family Chronicles and get tips from Pamela on how she inculcates the love for reading in her kids - Tips for Reading to a Toddler, and Start Reading Young!]

Let's strive to build a generation of readers. How do you encourage your child to read? 

"The more that you read, the more things you will know. 
The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." 
~ Dr Suess

        SPECIAL GIVEAWAY! (9 - 21 Oct)       

To celebrate the Children's Day, I have 2 book vouchers worth $30 to gift to my Simply Lambchops readers! You can use the book vouchers to offset your purchase at The Groovy Giraffe!

The Groovy Giraffe is Singapore's first official online remainder bookstore. You'll notice the bookstore carries great discounted books, and your savings can be as much as 80% of the recommended retail prices. 

Why are the prices so affordable? That is because they are remainder books - books that are BRAND NEW, overstocked and overprint. Some of the heavily discounted books may display minor shelf wear due to being placed onto and removed from a shelf. So far, the books I have purchased look really new and I don't see any defects at all. 

I like that The Groovy Giraffe team also helps the book selection process by organising their books according to age groups, price, authors and publishers. There is also a section on books by Children's Laureate. 

The Groovy Giraffe also offers FREE SHIPPING within Singapore for orders above $50. 

How to enter the giveaway:

I will be doing a random draw for 2 winners using the Rafflecopter widget.
In order to qualify for the giveaway, please use the Rafflecopter widget below to complete the following steps:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway will end on Wednesday 21 Oct, 2359 hrs. Results of the draw will be announced here.

Giveaway Terms and Conditions
  • The winner will be contacted using the particulars provided when entering the draw, and has 48 hours to respond, failing which a new winner will be drawn. 
  • Claiming of the $30 voucher is through The Groovy Giraffe. 
  • All incomplete entries will be disqualified. All entries will be verified before the winners are announced. To be fair to our sponsors, please note that all fake Facebook accounts (e.g. accounts set up purely to take part in contests with no or very few real friends) will also be ineligible to win.
  • This giveaway is open to Singapore residents only.


The Groovy Giraffe has kindly offered a 5% discount to all Simply Lambchops readers when you make a purchase from their online bookstore (except bargains)! Just enter the coupon code below when you check out your cart!

Disclosure: No monetary compensation was given for this review and all opinions are ours. We received a set of books from The Groovy Giraffe for the purpose of this review. 

CONGRATULATIONS to Ms Jenny Y. and Ms Cynthia L.!
for winning the giveaway! 
I will be getting in touch with you soon!
Please check your email for details to collect your prize! 

To everyone who has participated in 
this giveaway, THANK YOU for supporting 
Simply Lambchops! 
Do continue to visit the blog for more updates!

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