Sitting down and reading to your child is one of the best ways to ensure a lifelong reader. Long before your child learns how to read, he can still benefit greatly from sitting down with a parent and listening to his favorite books. By listening to the words and looking at the text and pictures on the page, your child is increasing his vocabulary in preparation for talking and reading at a more advanced level. Your child is also following along as you point to words on the page, and he starts to associate the written word with specific meanings. In addition, reading together is an easy, effective way to bond. Children will love the time they get to spend with you and will love the stories that you read to them.
During a typical busy day, it can be hard to know how much reading time is sufficient, how much is too little and how much is ideal. The answer depends on your child’s personality and your usual schedule. When your child is a toddler, you should ideally read together at least once a day. Read for as long as your child seems interested and engaged or as long as your schedule allows.
If your child tends to grow restless, try shorter reading periods two or three times a day. Ten minutes is usually a good length for younger children. Whenever your toddler brings you her favorite book, if possible, you should sit down and read together. As your child grows older and starts to learn how to read, try to stick to a once-daily reading schedule. Eventually, your child may even beg you to read every day!
Older children should have longer attention spans, so you can read for longer periods of time. You can even keep reading to your child after she learns how to read, especially by focusing on books above her reading level. As long as you continue to challenge them, children will improve their reading ability.
By reading as often as possible, you are illustrating the importance and fun of reading and encouraging your child to take the time to become a strong, competent reader. Eventually, the children will take to reading on their own and you will no longer have to read to them. This does not mean an end to reading as a bonding activity. You can read different books at the same time; you can read the same book independently and discuss the story as you go. You can suggest new books to each other as well. Instilling your child with a love of reading can be a lifelong bond that you can both cherish.
So in summary, you should read to your child as often as they possible and for as long as it holds their attention. By demonstrating how important reading is to you and for success in life, your children will learn to respect and enjoy reading.