Thursday, March 7, 2013

Book reading time! How to keep little ones engaged

Do you find it challenging to keep your little one(s) engaged while reading to them?  Do they wonder off, find more interest in playing with their toys, make a bunch of noise, or climb up on you or another child while being read to? Don't fret, it's ok to let them wonder off if they start to lose interest. Little ones, particularly toddlers, have a limited attention span for about 5 to 10 minutes. 

So keep this in mind when you pick out a book to share with them and to keep their interest . . .

Find a book that . . . has colorful pictures and not so many pages. I would shy away from books that can seem too busy with too much to look at on the page. If it’s difficult for the little ones to focus, then in turn, they will lose interest. 

Don’t be concerned about books that have lots of words . . . as some of the books I read to the little ones, might have long paragraphs on each page. I usually read the first sentence and improvise the remaining “paragraph” with just a few added sentences of my own, to help them follow what is happening. Little ones are anxious to see the next page very quickly. It might help to read the book yourself, ahead of time, to see what the story is about, and think about the questions you’re going to ask.

Ask them to find the “cat” . . . or characters, or items on the page. They can engage by pointing to the character you are talking about. Sometimes, I’ll say excitedly, “Oh there is a cat on this page!” I’ll ask them to point to it if they see it. I’ll even add to their interest by mimicking the sound a cat makes. I might only point out one of two items for each page. I do this to keep their interest focused on the pages.

Be silly with them by mimicking sounds . . . when you are pointing to an animal, or a car, or the main character of that particular page. Encourage them to mimic your sound, or when you are naming an item like: truck, cat ,or flower. If someone is knocking on the door in the story, they can knock on the door as well. Add to the sound of a door knock, by knocking on the wall behind you. You can even take it a step further, if you have an older toddler or preschooler that is around age 2 or older. Ask questions like, “Why do you think Goldilocks ran away?” Any answer is a good answer. Then you can add, “Do you think she was scared?”  Or ask a question that brings the older ones back to the story like, “What do you think is going to happen next?” “Who’s in baby bear’s bed?” Again, any answer is a good answer. It encourages their imagination.

Use this opportunity to point out colors or to count . . . as sometimes there is a page showing a few items in a row. If you are introducing a certain color to your little one(s), point out and name that color when you see it in the book.

The general idea of engaging your little one(s) with book reading, is to encourage the love of books. By you making it fun and silly, this will create fond memories. The next few times you pull out a book to read, they will look forward to engaging with you. As they grow up, they will be inspired with the love of books, language, and imagination. *Iva

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