Thursday, 10 April 2014

Tips for Reading to a Toddler

You know how we love reading, and how we've been reading to the kids since they were very young. So I love to take pictures of the kids reading, or of hubbs reading to the kids. Last night, I saw Shawna laying her head on hubbs' shoulder, and that's quite a rare sight, so I quickly snapped this picture below, and posted it on my Facebook wall last night. Attracted a whole bunch of Likes, and this question from my friend Patrina "When I read to my 2 yr old, she pay attention for a while and then start flipping pages or go play other stuff, how?!?!?" If you know me and my usual long-winded fashion, Facebook is not the place for my reply, this post here, is my reply :p
Love this shot of hubbs reading to the twins! :)
What do we know about toddlers?
Toddlers have short attention span. Thus, it is fairly normal for a 2 year old to pay attention for a short while, then lose interest and walk away. So what can we do about this?
  1. Choose appropriate books.
  2. Engage the child in the book by providing some "reading activities"
  3. Dramatise! Read with expressions!
  4. Set an aim and let the child agree and commit. 
  5. Persevere!
Appropriate books for Toddlers
Given their short attention span, choose books with short stories, more pictures and less words.Some kids like pop-up books. And books with flaps for the kids to flip, and books that intentionally feature different textures do lend a tactile feeling which is also good for engaging kids.

If your child picks out a book for you to read which is fairly long, just summarise on the spot to give her a gist of the story. For example, just use a sentence or two to describe the 'action' in the pictures, to summarise that page. 2-sentence summaries of a 10 page book will make a 20 sentence story for a toddler. Good enough. There is no competition to read long books to toddlers, what you are interested in is to have them concentrate for a length of time on a book. If the book is meant for an older child, then it is normal that a younger child may not sit through it entirely.

Also, if the child is resisting reading, you may wish to choose books with topics or characters which you know will interest the child. For example, many children love animals, so books on animals are popular. Or perhaps even books which have certain cartoon characters which they like. Use these books to interest them in reading for now. You can introduce books with different topics later.

I don't personally go hunting for specific books, and the only author recommendations for toddlers' books off the top of my head would be Dr Seuss, Julia Donaldson and Eric Carle but here's a blog post from LittleBlueBottle that has lots of recommendations :) Mum in the Making has tonnes of recommendations over here and at her Facebook album. Oh and if your child likes fish and sea creatures, check out these titles laid out by Princess Dana Diaries.

At this age, the kids love repetition and crave familiarity. Thus it is good to have at least a some books of your own as the kids love to read the same book again and again. Often, parents buy more books not necessarily because the children want them. It's more for the sanity of the parents to not have to read the same book over and over again that they buy more books! :p You can check out books at Groovy Giraffe, a local online bookshop. Key in TanFamilyC to get 5% off your cart anytime of the year. Go register an account, if they have better promos, they'd email you! 
Isaac, Asher and Shawna when they were toddlers! I like that bottom left picture of Asher at the bookshelf with his pants half worn! hahaha...
Involve the child through reading activities!
Having a book being read to you can be quite boring if you can't quite understand what is being read to you, or if it is monotonous and boring. This is how reading may appear to a very young child who doesn't know many things and cannot relate to many things they see in books. Thus, one way to get around this, is to INVOLVE the child and ENGAGE him in the book through simple activities like the following
  • Counting - whenever you see a number of similar items in the pictures, ask your child to count. "Count the penguins!" "How many apples are there on the lion?" Count in English, count in Chinese, count in dialect! Use their fingers to point at each item as you count. Children this age can often rattle off their 1 to 10, but they don't know how to count properly. Thus you not only read to them, but can also let them learn their numbers and counting too.
  • Colours - let them learn colours by pointing out colours to them, or asking them what the colours are. "Who is Tom? The boy in a red shirt? or the boy in a blue shirt?" "What colour is this? Blue? Yes, it is blue! Good job! But you know what? It is also a special blue called CYAN!" 
  • Alphabets - Toddlers are also in the process of learning the alphabet. So every now and then, you can point to one of the key words that keeps appearing in the story and spell it out to the child, letter by letter. Often, I will spell the title too, as a precursor to reading the book. There is no need to spell every single word in the book. Just a few would do. If the child knows his alphabet, get him to spell the word to you. Use this opportunity to practice phonics too. "Fireman Sam Saves the Day. Fireman starts with? F! That's right! What sound does F make? Ffffff.... yes! Come, let's spell Fireman "F.I.R.E..."
  • Ask questions - ask many questions. "What a nice dress Cinderella has! Do you like it? What colour do you want YOUR dress to be?" Ask questions which the answers are in the book and pictures, say for a book on going to the park "Do you like to go to the park? What can we do in the park?". You can even express disapproval and negative behaviour and reinforce your approval for good behaviour in your questions   "Uh oh, was that a nice thing for the boy to do? No, right? He shouldn't snatch, isn't it. That is not a good thing to do. Do you snatch? Yes, sometimes you snatch from Cheh Cheh. But I like it that you apologised and hugged her. That was nice. Did this boy in the book apologise? Yes, he did! That's nice of him, isn't it? "
Yes, if you have an elder child, you can encourage him to read to the younger ones.
Dramatise! Read with expressions!
Read with expressions! Growl like a wolf. Make squeaky noises like a mouse. Talk with a deep voice like Papa/Grandpa. Squeal in delight like a princess. Make the story come alive! Your children are the best audience in the world, and they would love it when you dramatise stories to them. 

Set an aim, and get them to agree!
Before you start reading, set an aim, communicate this to your child, and get them to agree. "Mummy read this book to you, then you can go and play with your dolls, okay?" Get her to agree. So if midway the book, she starts to wonder off, you remind her "Remember, you agreed that we finish this book before you play with your dolls? Come on, 3 more pages only." and when she sits through it all "Well done! Good job! You agreed to read the whole book and you did! hi-five!" 

Persevere! Persevere! Persevere!
Remember! The child is only a toddler! It is normal for them to have a short attention span. It is your job as her parent though, to lengthen that concentration span. Reading is one way to do this. (Playing boardgames is another hehehee...). Take note of the timing when you read to your child. Today, she may have concentrated for only 3 minutes, but persevere! tomorrow, it may have improved to 5 minutes. Persevere! Read everyday! And slowly, but surely, the child's concentration span will get longer and longer. 

My drawing of Magneto
On this note, I end off with an anecdote of my dear Asher.

Last night, Asher asked me to draw Magneto. I didn't know how to, so I took out my X-Men book and attempted to draw the picture of Magneto above. As I was drawing, I muttered:"Asher, Mummy dunno how to draw Magneto lah..." Immediately, Asher replied "Then you must PERSEVERE, Mummy!" I said "Woah, where did you learn that big word from?" "From my school teacher from Learning Vision lah." "Do you know what it means?" "Yes, it means to try and try again." wah.... steady lah Asher. And so, with encouragement from my four year old, I persevered and drew the above Magneto!!! Not too shabby, eh? :p

1 comment:

  1. Wow, lengthy post with lots of tips indeed! Asher is so cute in his baby photo - did you shave his hair?

    And wow Persevere! amazing what they learn these days. K learnt "evacuation" from a strawberry shortcake youtube cartoon! haha.


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