One of the most beneficial things you can do for your child to ensure a successful academic experience during his school years, is to begin reading with him at a very early age. Not only does this activity encourage parent-child bonding, just by the very nature of it, it also helps develop his brain as it encourages progress in many intellectual areas.
Creating a Foundation
Julie Temple Stan, a children's author and researcher of the curriculum for the show "Sesame Street", points out that the more you read to your child, the more you are teaching him the prereading skills he will need to master independent reading. Stan says that by reading books to him, you are teaching your child that print carries meaning. If you point to the words as you read, you are teaching him the left-to-right progression of the words on a page, and the left-to-right progression of pages in a book. As he studies the pictures of a children's book while you read, he also begins to understand symbolism and to use pictures to relate to what is happening in the story.
Speech and Vocabulary
As you read to your small child, you're reinforcing language and how to form words. Children's books that play with sounds and repetition -- such as those in the Dr. Seuss collection -- especially help toddlers begin to understand the concept of rhyming, rhythm, and vocal patterns in reading. Your child also learns new words that she may not hear regularly outside of her children's books, which in turn expand her vocabulary.
According to the pediatricians at "Healthy Children Magazine," your child's literacy level is affected by two things: genetics and environment. The genes he has inherited from you and your partner will determine the basic wiring of his brain, but the environment that you provide for him will determine how well those wires will be connected. Reading to your child creates an environment that helps him connect those wires in his brain as his senses are stimulated -- he is listening to your voice, he is looking at the visual images on the page of the book and -- an added benefit that Dr. High, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care, points out -- that you are making physical contact and strengthening your attachment as you cuddle close while you read.
Attention Span and Comprehension
While your toddler may be squirmy and unfocused when you first begin reading to her, eventually she will learn to stay put during the story, and you will find that your reading sessions may be longer and longer in duration -- perhaps even per her own request. Asking her open-ended questions about the story such as, "What do you think happens next?" or "Why do you think the father is sad?" helps develop logical and sequential thinking.
As if all this good stuff isn't reason enough to read regularly with your little one, children's books are also excellent ways to teach concepts to children. Seeing vivid pictures of colors in an illustration or seeing letters and numbers in large print as he is able to count objects on a page or look at pictures that start with the letter B all reinforce these basic ideas that are the building blocks of your toddler's learning.
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