Everyone knows how important it is to promote a love for books and reading in young children. And teachers, librarians and reading specialists emphasize that reading aloud to children helps them learn to read.
Yet, in today’s busy, fast-paced, screen-time-dominated (TV, computers and video games) lifestyles, the traditional reading of books can easily fall by the wayside. That’s why it’s up to the adults in children’s lives to be proactive and creative in finding ways to introduce the joys of reading.
Experts urge parents to read with their children for about 20 minutes every day, continuing the activity long after a child can read on his or her own. But reading shouldn’t be considered a chore, something to be checked off at the end of each day. Grandparents can leave the routine to the parents, and give themselves over to the pleasure of reading.
Reading aloud to a grandchild creates a wonderful opportunity for snuggling, laughter and conversation. Reading together can break the ice, build bridges and seal the connection between grandparents and grandchildren. Imparting your pleasure and enthusiasm for the stories you share will go a long way toward making your grandkids readers for life.
Sometimes, your grandchildren will have a clear idea of what they want you to read them: a favorite story, a subject of special interest or an author of whom they just can’t get enough. But what if they don’t? How do you select an age-appropriate book that will engage your young one?
Everyone has their favorites, but most book-lovers agree that there has to be a good idea, believable characters, wonderful language and, for picture books, pictures that help tell the story.
For Babies and Toddlers – Look for board books with rhymes, playful language and colorful illustrations.
For Preschoolers and Kindergartners – Select picture books that are visually appealing and are on topics that are of interest to your grandchild. For beginning talkers, select books that have just a few words and phrases that repeat, so the child can chime in as you read.
For Early Readers – Look for books your grandchild can read (even in part) alone but that still have interesting or funny stories. Continue reading picture and chapter books to your grandchild, but mix them with these “easy readers” that they can read alone or out loud to you.
For Intermediate Grades – Children’s awareness of authors and their works develops during the fourth through seventh grade years. They will frequently seek out all of the titles in a series or by a particular author. (Remember Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys?) Reading books that are part of a series helps to develop reading fluency and establish a reading habit. You can contribute to this habit by adding to a child’s collection of a series.
Encourage your grandchild to read many different types of books, including more sophisticated picture books (of which there are many today), informational books, biographies and poetry. This is a good time to seek out books on interests you share with your grandchild. Does she want to know about scientific advances that were made in your youth? Combine a good book about the solar system with your own memories of the first moon walk.
For ’Tweens and Teens – “Young adult books” (YA), the term used for books for teens, typically grapple with sophisticated topics. You probably won’t be reading aloud to your grandchildren at this point, but you can certainly read what they’re reading. If you pick up a copy of the latest YA novel, you’ll have something to talk about and you’ll know how your teen-age grandchildren react to difficult content.