I am so very thankful for all the preschool opportunities that God has provided for me, as a Grandma, through Trinity United Methodist Church Preschool; Pepperell Baptist Church which hosts Mothers of Preschoolers, MOPS, and Village Kids; and Opelika First Baptist Church, which is the host church for Community Bible Study each week.

In all these ministry opportunities to outreach to young children, reading is a vital part. Young children, from infants, toddlers and older preschoolers, observe everything as they take the whole world in.

They are also watching the adults around them. We are their first teachers and young children model and copy our actions in order to learn. And, too, infants and toddlers love to read and to be read to.

It amazes me how quickly these little minds begin to absorb what is going on around them. Why wait to reap the benefits of beginning to read when your child is four or five years old? Don’t miss a moment or opportunity to encourage your child to interact with a good book in reading readiness: read and succeed.

The benefits of reading to your children early in their lives include develop listening skills, allowing them to explore the world around them and to let them learn about themselves and others around them. Children are also encouraged to learn the meanings of words, memorize words and phrases, as well as use their imaginations. Spending time reading to your child makes him or her feel secure and loved, and creates a lasting bond.

In reading to your baby from birth to 11 months, search for books that may be easy to wash and clean such as vinyl books, cloth or thick cardboard books. Our local libraries have so many age appropriate board books. I love the board books with mirrors so infants and toddlers can look at themselves and be included in the story. They squeal with delight when they see their faces included in the stories. Set books up where they can be seen and enjoyed.   

Point and tap the pages so the baby will focus on what is being read and will keep the baby’s attention. Sitting with your young baby in your lap and looking at books will open the mind of a young child. Older babies like to hold books, point to the pictures and turn the pages. Be sure to name the objects and items the baby may see on each page.

With your one-year-old child, he or she can point and express a choice of the books they want to read. Putting books out with textures or those that make sound with sound devices are very motivating for your child in reading readiness. Having your child point to pictures, naming them and using a lot of expression in making sounds begins the interactive reading readiness process.

Those wonderful two year olds will want mom, dad or grandparents to read their favorite books again and again. They will memorize it and you will too. Have a bookmark or use your finger to point so your two year old can follow the words.

Have your child act out the story or retell the story in their own words. Storytelling is one very effective way for opening up a child’s imagination, feelings and fun with reading readiness. You don’t need a lot of fancy props or anything when you do verbal story telling. As you tell or read the story, use your voice, mannerisms and body movements to convey emphasis and emotion. Children are so quiet and spellbound when you show excitement in the story you are reading or telling. 

It doesn’t take a lot of time to read to your young children. Make it a celebration by eating your favorite snack while reading together.  Help turn reading a book a day into a top priority in your child’s life. Check in with your local library to see what hours they read to young children. Embark on the journey of reading early in your child’s life as they learn, grow, apply what they’ve learned and succeed. You will never regret the time you spent reading to your child.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above and cometh down from the Father of Lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17.  Our young children are truly a gift from God. 

Beth Pinyerd has taught young children in the early childhood classroom for many years. She holds a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Auburn University. The column is provided to enrich the education of our children, youth and families in our community. 

The Classroom Observer welcomes educational news, school news, pictures and events by emailing donnapinyerd@charter.net.