One of the joys of parenting is reading with our kids, beginning when they are infants. There is nothing like snuggling up with a pile of simple books with our little ones on our laps. Soon, we invite toddlers to select the books. Later, we invite them to read along.
But unfortunately, not all parents share in these wonderful experiences with their children because some parents can read only minimally themselves. Non-reading parents may view shared reading time as an embarrassing trap from which to flee, or maybe as a scary opportunity only to minimally embrace.
If non-reading or low-functioning reading adults weren’t read to as children, they may not recognize share reading as part of their parental job, much less their joy. That expectation can feel like a setup for exposure and failure. However, their babies don’t know how to read either, so sharing picture books with them is the perfect way to for non-reading parents to develop a story time habit without worry about being the perfect or even moderately capable reader.
Now I know that teaching others to love doing what we don’t know how to do ourselves is a huge challenge, rife with pitfalls. Happily for those with the youngest children that’s not what this parenting challenge is about. Nobody is asking them to teach their children to read. They are only appropriately encouraged to teach their children to love books and reading. This is critical because, not experiencing books and reading until Kindergarten can effectively put children far behind many of their peers who have had five rich years of experience with books and their inherent linguistic, cultural and informational enrichment before entering a classroom.
One of the best and easiest places for parents to learn how to read to their children is at public library. There, a trained librarian will read aloud during a story time and then offer help to parents in finding enjoyable books to share with their wee ones.
If a family doesn’t live near a library or if transportation is an issue, technology can come to the rescue! Along with Unite for Literacy’s digital library filled with hundreds of books narrated in 40+ languages, going online on a mobile device and searching for “Free Online Read Alouds” immediately offers dozens of websites where excellent books are read aloud by fluent and expressive readers, freeing parents to interact comfortably with their children.
These days, everybody can lap read with their kids. There’s no longer a barrier to these precious five years of language and literacy growth…and family joy.
So, stay calm and read on.