Build your child's love of reading without spending a fortune on books

Your child’s love for reading starts from the moment they are born. With just a story or two a day, you can instil a lifetime love for reading in your little one. Better still, it doesn’t have to cost a cent! Your local library has a ready supply of free books  for kids — simply borrow, read, return!

Here are some simple tips for building reading into your day for the first five years of your child’s life.

Reading and babies

Even young babies can learn from reading books with you. Read slowly and spend time on each page, giving your baby time to focus on the shape of words and the pictures.

Turn the page slowly — this shows bub how to use a book. Point out and name familiar and new things your baby sees; the more words babies hear, the more words they learn.

Change the tone of your voice as you read. This makes it easier for your baby to pick up on different speech sounds, which is an important step towards your baby learning to make sounds.

Look for books with different textures so your baby can hear, see and feel the book. Waterproof plastic and cloth books that can go in your baby’s mouth and into the bath are fantastic. Choose books with bright colours or simple high-contrast pictures, as these are interesting and easy for babies to focus on. Babies enjoy books that have rhymes, rhythm and repetition.

Toddlers have fun with reading

By the time your child reaches their toddler stage, reading with them is all about spending time together and having fun with books. Help your child choose a book (even take them to the library to choose their own), and have them hold the book and turn the pages.

Get your child to fill in the words in a story they know. Try pausing, they might well finish the whole sentence for you!

Ask your toddler to describe actions in the book, for example, ‘What is the cow doing?’ or ‘What sound is the dog making?’ Choose books with animals and animal noises, books about playtime that relate to their own experiences, and books about a favourite topic such as cars, castles, the ocean. Also, lift-the-flap and pop-up books are wonderful at this age, where toddlers can have fun with books with moveable pieces.

Books that you can read in 4-5 minutes are a good length for this age.

Pre-schoolers explore the world

Reading at pre-school age is all about exploring stories and spending special time together. It’s the perfect age to chat and ask questions.

Before you even start reading, ask your child questions, such as ‘Who is the author?’, ‘What do you think the story is about?’ or  ‘Who might be in it?’

Encourage your child to use their finger to trace the words while you read them. Changing your voice and expression for different characters can also be fun. Repeat repetitive phrases and words together.

Vary the pace of reading and stop to ask questions during the story. For example: ‘What do you think happens next?’ Also ask your child questions that will help them relate to the story, such as, ‘How would you feel if this was you?’ or ‘What would you do if this happened to you?’

Pre-schoolers enjoy books that tell simple stories, especially ones with rhythm and repetition. They also enjoy books about families, friends and going to school.

Books with characters who are about the same age as them, and characters who have quirky traits are popular among pre-school-aged children. While some pre-schoolers are very interested in non-fiction books, such as inventions, food, planets and animals.

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