By Kris Perry, Executive Director of First 5 California
Kids start learning from the moment they’re born. In fact, 90 percent of their brain develops in the first five years. When parents read, sing and talk to their child, the child’s brain is filled with words, sounds, and emotions that help make the brain cells grow stronger. This will have a lifelong effect on his ability to learn language and communicate with others. Reading is an enriching shared activity you can continue for years to come. Here are some tips from First 5 California: Start at Birth: While your baby doesn’t know what a book is yet, it’s still important to read to your child every day, even for just a few minutes. Choose brightly colored board books that have pictures of familiar objects like toys and animals. Reading will build a stronger bond between the two of you and the words, pictures and stories stimulate the part of your baby’s brain that enables him to learn vocabulary. Be Patient with Toddlers: It can be challenging to get an active, squirming toddler to sit still while you read a book. That’s okay. A toddler’s attention span gets longer, especially once they reach 2 – 2 1/2 years. Read whichever book your child chooses, even if it’s the same one for weeks on end. This repetition is helping your child make connections between words and pictures. Engage Preschoolers: Ask “who,” “what,” “where,” “when” and “why” questions to develop analytical and thinking skills. For example, “Who is your favorite character?” or “Where did the hero go?” Move your finger under the words as you read and encourage your child to sound out simple words or phrases with you. Create a “Book Friendly” Home: Fill the bottom shelves of a bookshelf with kid-friendly books and coloring pages. Stack some books on an end table or coffee table. Encourage daily reading habits with a monthly tracking calendar. Incorporate reading into everyday activities: Make reading a part of your child’s everyday life by reading the world around them. Check off items on your grocery list together and read the food labels on everything from soup cans to cereal boxes while out shopping. For more reading tips, visit first5california.com/parents.