13 Creative Ways To Read To Your Child

By Kerry Dowling

Books have always been important to me. When I discovered I was pregnant, I immediately began buying books for our child, mostly favorites from my own childhood. I sat in the room destined to become the nursery and read out loud from these new books. A book for the baby was even packed in the hospital bag. We were ready for the next reader!

It was a huge shock to learn, on the third day after her birth through a routine newborn hearing screen, that Hadley was possibly hearing impaired. Suddenly, we began to question our very basic assumptions about Hadley’s life. One thing that helped restore a sense of normalcy for me was to sit and read to Hadley. It was comforting to do something that I had planned on doing while in the midst of researching and learning about the unexpected. As someone who had been read to throughout childhood, words have a soothing effect on me. After reading a page or two to Hadley, I could feel myself calm down and relax, to momentarily forget my anxiety over whether she would ever hear my voice. In fact, in the early months, I read to Hadley more for my own benefit than for her! I assumed that by holding Hadley close to my chest and snuggling my head next to hers, she could at least feel the vibrations of my voice and have a sense of security in being held. As I read some of my favorite children’s books to Hadley, I took time to point out the pictures and show her which illustrations had been my favorites. I never thought about whether it made sense to read to someone who possibly did not hear my voice, much less to read fairly sophisticated books to a newborn. I just read and read and read.

Just two, Hadley wears hearing aids, meets weekly with an auditory-verbal therapist, talks in full sentences, and makes jokes. She loves to sing, march, play—and read!

How We Encourage Reading

  1. Model reading. Hadley knows that we have shelves of books in the house that are ours, not hers. Even though her dad isn’t as book crazy as her mom, she sees him read the newspaper and magazines. We point out readers to Hadley, at home, in the library, and when we’re out around town.
  2. Buy books! My own philosophy is that you can’t have too many books, so we made a decision early on that while we wouldn’t spend a fortune on a ton of toys, we would invest in a wide variety of books for our children.
  3. Create a physical space for books at home. Hadley has one main play area at home with shelves for books, but we also have small baskets of her books throughout the house, next to a rocking chair, in bedrooms, and in the car.
  4. Go to the library. We go to the library at least once a week, where we look at the paintings in the art gallery, look for a few books for me, then settle into the children’s library to where Hadley is encouraged to pick out books on her own. We keep her library books in a special place at home, which makes it easier to explain that some books stay at home and others need to be returned.
  5. Pick up on favorites. When Hadley asks to read a book over and over again, we immediately check out other books by the same author or illustrator.
  6. Be creative. We make “books” out of songs Hadley enjoys, either by drawing (we are not artists!), finding pictures that go along with the lyrics, or downloading clipart from the computer. Hadley likes to read through her own photo albums with captions and her Experience Book, sharing them with family and friends.
  7.  Make it fun! We act out books as much as possible (with toys, puppets, felt, whatever we have at hand), make up songs to go along with the story, and have a good time with reading. Sometimes we read the book to a stuffed animal or puppet.
  8.  Make it her activity. Hadley chooses which book to read and where to read it. If she decides halfway through that something else is more exciting, we just come back to the book later. Sometimes she just wants to read a favorite section of the book, which is fine too.
  9. Read throughout the day. Reading is definitely an important part of Hadley’s bedtime ritual. But it’s also part of getting dressed, eating lunch, and waking up from a nap.
  10. Vary the narrators. It’s boring to have the same person always read to you. When we have visitors, we ask Hadley to share a book with them. It’s especially fun for Hadley to have older kids read to her.
  11.  Pack a Bag. Hadley is used to selecting which items she wants to bring along when we go visiting. Books are always included, another great way to ensure that others are reading to her.
  12.  Sing it! Many books are based on well-known songs or can be set to their own tune. There are many beautifully illustrated songbooks of nursery rhymes and old favorites. Several of Hadley’s first phrases were based on lines from songs in books.
  13. Be poetic. The cadence and rhythm of poetry is interesting to most people and is a nice break from the routine of reading a traditional book.

It is clear to me that reading and literature have been huge factors contributing to Hadley’s success to date. Books put important words into context for her, through the repetition in the language and the corresponding illustrations. Books make learning interesting and new, providing us with another avenue for bringing language into Hadley’s life. Most importantly, at two years, Hadley is already developing her own love of books.