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Have you ever tried telling your two-year-old, who doesn’t yet know his colors, that the sky is purple? He’ll believe you! It’s so cute — his response will be something like, “Oh. The sky is purple.”
Toddlers learn by mimicking. They watch and copy everything you do without question. So if you read voraciously, they will, too. If you cuddle your toddler and read books together, he will see reading as an enjoyable experience. If you love to visit the library and always have a stack of books on your nightstand your toddler will hanker after books.
Reading should be fun and not an onerous chore! That’s the idea you want to transmit to your child. The very worst way to convey that idea is by requiring that your child read a certain amount per day. How would you feel about ice cream if someone required you to eat a gallon of it every day before you could play? Pressure to read can overshadow the joy of reading.
If your child has not yet caught the reading bug, he may need a little help. The best way to help is by first communicating your own love of reading and second by keeping things lighthearted and fun. Games and activities can help!
The following activities involve all five senses, so they appeal to all types of learners and they’re fun. They incorporate dancing, singing, and even yummy things to eat.
1. Sunday comics. Start a tradition of reading the Sunday comics together. You can read alongside and laugh with a reading child, or read to a younger child. My husband and kids pore over Calvin and Hobbes together, which also provides them with fun inside jokes!
2. Scavenger hunt! Using simple text your child can read, create a scavenger hunt around your home. Tape notes in various places around your house telling your child where to find the next clue. At the end of the trail of clues, have a special book waiting as the prize.
3. Tell a story. Simply roll the story cubes and let the pictures spark your imagination. Each set has it’s own picture category, so you won’t ever get bored. Play with them solo or combine sets to kick-start your child’s imagination.
Rory’s Story Cubes is a pocket-sized creative story generator, providing hours of imaginative play for all ages. With Rory’s Story Cubes, anyone can become a great storyteller and there are no wrong answers.
4. Find an audience. Help readers celebrate their newfound skills by letting them read to a younger sibling or grandparent. Or they might enjoy reading to a captive audience of pets or stuffed animals.
5. Cliffhangers. Most authors of chapter books use cliffhangers (exciting parts that reach the climax, but without resolving anything) to end chapters so that the reader is drawn on to the next chapter. Take advantage of these and leave your child breathlessly waiting for your next read-aloud session! Or if your children are like mine, the book will disappear and only reappear once it has been finished by the child.
6. Fangirl an author. If your child loves a certain author, look him up online. Most authors have terrific sites with fun games and activities as well as answers to questions about their books. Help your child write a fan letter to their favorite author — many times they’ll write back!
7. Create your own books. I cut a couple of pieces of printer paper in half the short way, along with one piece of cardstock. We layer them, the cardstock on the outside, as the cover, the printer paper inside as the book pages, then fold them in half and staple along the fold. Your child can write and illustrate the story, or you can help in whatever ways you see fit.
8. Pull a Rory. ‘Rory’ Gilmore, from the Gilmore Girls, always has a book (or three!) in her purse. Next time you’re riding the bus or subway together or sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, pull out a book to read with your child. It’s a much better way to pass the time than letting her play on an iPad while you check your phone.
9. Invent your own storyline. Children love to ‘read’ wordless books aloud. Goodnight Gorilla is one of our favorites.
10. Make it a date. If you have several children, an outing with just one child will feel special, like a date. Visit the library (hooray for free dates!) and then hit up a bakery on the way home with all your loot.
11. Read somewhere creative. We especially love to cut up a watermelon and spend summer nights reading on the lawn. The trampoline, a blanket fort, the park, the playhouse in your backyard and your child’s bed are a few other fun places to read. You could also read by flashlight or firelight.
12. Library loitering. Most libraries host fun events in addition to just being a place to borrow books. You’ll find puppet shows, readings and literary-centric crafts.
13. Create a literary culinary institute. So many books mention foods or use foods as a theme. Teach your child some cooking skills to go along with her new reading skills. Some fun examples are If you Give a Mouse a Cookie, If you Give a Moose a Muffin, The Popcorn Book, Pete’s a Pizza, Blueberries for Sal, Green Eggs and Ham, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, If you Give a Pig a Pancake, Stone Soup, Dragons Love Tacos, Tony’s Bread, Bread and Jam for Frances, If you Give a Cat a Cupcake, and so many more.
14. Rhyme time. Set a kitchen timer for a minute or so, and give your child a story to read aloud. Every time that the timer beeps, your child has to come up with a word that rhymes with the last word they spoke. Reset the timer and let them continue reading.
15. Attend free storytimes at public libraries and bookstores. If you’re lucky, they may host author visits, too. Most libraries sponsor summer reading programs with awards. They sometimes have related crafts afterwards.
16. D.E.A.R. camp. The acronym stands for Drop Everything And Read. I find this activity particularly useful on days that I also need a break. Just like the name implies, we drop everything, take a quick trip to the library, stop by the grocery store to load up on snacks, and then head home to spend the rest of the day lost in imaginary worlds.
17. Plan literature-themed field trips. Visit a construction site after reading The Little Excavator; a museum after reading Museum Trip; a symphony after reading Mole Music. We visited the Holocaust museum in Washington DC after reading several books about the holocaust.
18. Pull a story out of a hat. Write silly sentences on several strips of paper. A few silly examples to get you started: Toss them all together in a hat. Have your child pull strips out, one at a time, and read them aloud. This activity will have them giggling their way through a whole story!
19. Play story charades. Take turns with your child thinking of a story you’ve recently read together then acting it out. The non-acting person tries to guess the story.
20. Throw a literature-themed party together. It would be fun to host an Alice in Wonderland themed tea party or a Dr. Seuss themed party. Just think of all the fun, crazy things you could do! You can even send home books with your guests as party favors.
21. Make your child the star. Have your child read you her favorite book, substituting her own name for the main character throughout the story.
22. Compare and contrast. Check out several different versions of the same fairy tale from the library. Read and compare them together. Discuss what you liked best about different versions and how you would change them if you were the author.
23. Spawn a series. Have your child read you her favorite book and think up a sequel together. Take turns deciding what happens next as the plot unfolds.
24. Become a cartographer. Help your child draw a map of the setting of his favorite book and label all of the most important places.
25. Read a recipe. Have your child read the recipe to his favorite dessert aloud while the two of you prepare the dessert together. Be sure to make enough to share with the whole family!
And most of all, just remember to keep things lighthearted and fun. Praise your child’s efforts and successes up one side and down the other. Building confidence is just about as important as building skills.
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In addition to the tips, encouragement and resources that I’ve shared to help your teach your child to read, I’ve joined an amazing group of talented bloggers who have each created their own 10-day helpful homeschooling series for you to enjoy! Be sure to visit them all below!