When my wife and I told people that we were going to have a baby, they often asked what I was most looking forward to about being a new parent. My answer? The tax exemptions. I’m only kidding; my wife is a CPA, so that was always her answer.
No, I most looked forward to reading bedtime stories to my daughter. Once she was born, I proceeded to do just that. Even though she doesn’t yet understand the words, reading together has helped us to connect. And I ought to know the importance of stories because I wrote a book about it.
But how do you make the most of this opportunity? How do you make these stories fun for both you and your child? Here are a few suggestions from my own experience:
Make Reading Part of the Routine
There are lots of great reasons why to read your kids a bedtime story. But perhaps one of the best is that bedtime stories can help to establish a healthy bedtime routine. Even from a young age, this can help your child sleep better.
Having a set routine each night before bedtime signals to your kid that it’s time to start winding down. Reading them a bedtime story is an important part of this habit because it takes their mind off of the day and ignites their imagination.
Pick the Right Books
There are lots of children’s books out there—both good and bad. But what’s the best indication of the right book for your child? Whether it’s developmentally appropriate for their current age.
Many factors can go into deciding what’s age appropriate—from the complexity of the word, to the colors in the illustrations. Doing your homework before reading is important. That’s why we’ve included suggested reading lists in each of the Phase Guides. Because you’re too old for homework.
Do the Voices
What you’re reading is important, but so is how you’re reading it. One of the best ways to get your kid to understand the context of what’s happening in the book is from your delivery. They’re depending on you to be an emotional translator for them.
One of the most practical ways to do this is giving each of the characters silly voices. And make sure to do all of the sound effects. Children’s writers put those in there on purpose. What if you’re no good at silly voices? Who cares—you’re not on broadway; you’re reading to your kid.
Get the Kid(s) Involved
One of the biggest benefits of reading to your child is promoting their own literacy. The more you read to your child, the more they’ll understand and appreciate the importance of reading. And what better way to do that than by involving them in the process?
As they get older, let them start picking out the books to read. As they develop favorites, they might want to try reading aloud to you. Encourage them and gently guide them when they make mistakes. As you read, ask them questions about the book, like “And then what happened?”
Right now, my daughter is only five-months-old. So she’s some time away from reading books for herself. I try to get her involved by letting her hold on to the pages of the book. She inevitably attempts to eat the book.
At least I can say she’s been consuming literature from a very young age. (I’m sorry for the bad pun, but I have a quota of dad jokes to hit.)