Read­ing to­gether

Read­ing to and with your child will help en­cour­age her so­cial and lan­guage skills, among oth­ers.

The Star Malaysia - - Nation - By Dr RAJINI SARVANANTHAN Reg­u­lar read­ing time No lim­its to ac­cess

Hav­ing a reg­u­lar read­ing time with your tod­dler will not only help ac­cel­er­ate her men­tal de­vel­op­ment, but also help strengthen the bond be­tween the two of you.

IF you want to give your tod­dler a so­cial or ed­u­ca­tional ad­van­tage over his peers, a great way to do it is by giv­ing him ac­tive ex­po­sure to lan­guage at an early age.

You can achieve this by en­sur­ing that you com­mu­ni­cate with him as of­ten as pos­si­ble, and this in­cludes talk­ing and read­ing to him.

You can even start right from the mo­ment of your baby’s birth.

Don’t worry if he doesn’t un­der­stand what you are read­ing, as the im­por­tant thing here is for you to spend qual­ity time with him, talk­ing with him.

Stud­ies have shown that even pre­ma­ture babies who are ex­posed to read­ing in the neona­tal in­ten­sive care unit have bet­ter lan­guage skills as tod­dlers.

There are nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits to be gained from read­ing to your tod­dler, namely:

● Pick­ing up a large vo­cab­u­lary of words

● Learn­ing how to use them

● Fa­cil­i­tat­ing a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of phon­ics (a sys­tem of learn­ing to read by cor­re­lat­ing sounds with sym­bols)

● As­so­ci­at­ing the let­ters (and later on, words) with the words you use

● Grad­u­ally learn­ing the let­ters of the al­pha­bet

There are so many other ben­e­fits that can be associated with read­ing to your tod­dler.

Firstly, it helps re­in­force his cog­ni­tive abil­ity – his vo­cab­u­lary is grow­ing in leaps and bounds at this time.

Read­ing helps to “feed” his cu­rios­ity and hunger for learn­ing about the al­pha­bet, colours, shapes, weather, an­i­mals, sea­sons or just about any­thing un­der the sun.

Do pick a book with plenty of pic­tures of things that he can look at and name.

Read­ing is also a great bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ence as it al­lows you to spend qual­ity time with your tod­dler.

This helps build a strong con­nec­tion be­tween the both of you, es­pe­cially if you make the ef­fort to en­sure your read­ing ses­sions are very in­ter­ac­tive – this al­lows your tod­dler to con­nect with you and re­in­forces that spe­cial bond.

Read­ing out loud to your tod­dler can be a big help in help­ing him to make the tran­si­tion from be­ing a baby to a tod­dler.

For in­stance, hear­ing sto­ries about other tod­dlers who are fac­ing the same prob­lem as he is, can help him to man­age his fears or frus­tra­tions, e.g. if he wor­ries about mon­sters un­der his bed, a story about how an­other tod­dler han­dles this prob­lem may help al­le­vi­ate his fears.

Babies and tod­dlers nor­mally love reg­u­lar­ity as it makes them feel safe and com­fort­able.

Try to en­sure that your read­ing ses­sions hap­pen at a sim­i­lar time of day (and ev­ery day, if pos­si­ble), for in­stance, just be­fore his nap­time or bed­time.

If he is very ac­tive, try let­ting him sit on your lap or cud­dle up with him.

Most tod­dlers love be­ing held closely as it makes them feel safe and comfy, thus en­hanc­ing your read­ing ses­sion with a happy and re­laxed at­mos­phere.

Al­ways use age-ap­pro­pri­ate books or ma­te­rial dur­ing your read­ing ses­sion with your tod­dler.

You can start off with sim­ple books for tod­dlers (most have typ­i­cal ti­tles such as Baby’s First Words).

Let him se­lect which book he wants read to him.

Don’t worry if he se­lects the same book ev­ery day for sev­eral weeks, or even months, as this is com­pletely nor­mal.

In­tro­duce new ones at the same time to show him that there is so much more to en­joy.

Books for tod­dlers nor­mally have thick pages that are eas­ily han­dled by tod­dlers whose hands are still not deft enough to han­dle a “proper” book.

In ad­di­tion to this, “baby” books are more durable so you can al­low him to han­dle it him­self with­out wor­ry­ing that he might rip the pages out.

Make sure you have al­lo­cated the time solely for your tod­dler’s read­ing ses­sion, so that means turn­ing off the TV and leav­ing your smart­phone out of reach. Take your time when read­ing and be as ex­pres­sive as pos­si­ble.

Don’t be afraid to clown around by us­ing dif­fer­ent voices or play­act­ing the roles of each char­ac­ter.

You can also use hand or fin­ger pup­pets as props while you read to him.

Try to get him to par­tic­i­pate by read­ing, clap­ping or singing along with you.

You can even re­place some of the char­ac­ters in the book with real peo­ple, e.g. use your tod­dler’s name in place of one of the char­ac­ters.

Books with pic­tures are great as you can point them out and talk to him about them, e.g. ask him to name ob­jects in il­lus­tra­tions or pic­tures.

Be­fore go­ing to the next page, you can also ask him open-ended ques­tions such as “What do you think the lit­tle boy is go­ing to do with the box?” or “Tell me what you think will hap­pen next.”

This will en­cour­age your tod­dler to think about the story you are read­ing and par­tic­i­pate more ac­tively in your read­ing ses­sions.

In ad­di­tion to read­ing to him, you can also en­cour­age his so­cial and lan­guage skills by talk­ing to him through­out the day.

Other ac­tiv­i­ties that help in­clude singing to him, play­ing rhyming games, or even cre­at­ing your own sto­ries to­gether.

Your read­ing ses­sions should not be the only time that your tod­dler has ac­cess to books.

Make sure that his books are eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble to him at all times by leav­ing them in places he can reach, e.g. in a sep­a­rate bas­ket for books be­side his toys or on low shelves near his bed.

You should also make it a habit to keep some books with you, e.g. in the car or when tak­ing him to see his doc­tor.

Re­mem­ber, the ob­jec­tive in read­ing with your tod­dler is to bond with him, so limit the time he spends on any kind of gadget with screens, e.g. TV, video games, smart­phones, tablets, etc.

The Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics rec­om­mends “screen time” of less than two hours a day for chil­dren be­low two years of age.

Don’t fall into the trap of us­ing a “dig­i­tal nanny” to re­place you. Dr Rajini Sarvananthan is a con­sul­tant de­vel­op­men­tal pae­di­a­tri­cian. This ar­ti­cle is courtesy of the Malaysian Pae­di­atric As­so­ci­a­tion’s Pos­i­tive Par­ent­ing pro­gramme in col­lab­o­ra­tion with ex­pert part­ners. For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion, please e-mail starhealth@ thes­ or visit­pos­i­tive­par­ent­ The in­for­ma­tion pro­vided is for ed­u­ca­tional and com­mu­ni­ca­tion pur­poses only and it should not be con­strued as per­sonal med­i­cal ad­vice. In­for­ma­tion pub­lished in this ar­ti­cle is not in­tended to re­place, sup­plant or aug­ment a con­sul­ta­tion with a health pro­fes­sional re­gard­ing the reader’s own med­i­cal care. The Star does not give any war­ranty on ac­cu­racy, com­plete­ness, func­tion­al­ity, use­ful­ness or other as­sur­ances as to the con­tent ap­pear­ing in this col­umn. The Star dis­claims all re­spon­si­bil­ity for any losses, dam­age to prop­erty or per­sonal in­jury suf­fered di­rectly or in­di­rectly from reliance on such in­for­ma­tion.

Do pick books with colour­ful pic­tures and big let­ters, like in this filepic, that will at­tract your tod­dler to look at and name.

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