19th April 2018

Tips for Reading to Wriggly Children

Reading to children tips Guardian

Reading to children from birth is a great introduction to the written word, tactile page-turning and early literacy concepts, as well as learning verbal structures and encouraging development in verbal language and communication. If reading becomes part of a child’s day from an early age, they come to view books as a source of information, inspiration and creativity.

Wriggling is wonderful

It’s part of a child’s job to be alive and curious; wriggling is just a byproduct of being a toddler. The fact is – young children just don’t sit down in large groups for long periods of time to read stories. Your best bet is to change your expectations and realise that children will always move around, and that this doesn’t mean they’re not listening and learning. Leonie O’Hearn, Educational Leader at Guardian Early Learning Centre – Bruce, explains, “A lot of young children are kinesthetic and auditory learners and will learn by participating in engaging experiences whether this is repeating a common phrase in a book or creating actions to help themselves explain the story.”

Beyond the page

Going ‘off book,’ asking questions, contextualising the story and not reading word-for-word gives the reader ways to keep a child’s interest. Don’t keep reading to the end just for the sake of it and don’t pursue longer stories if it’s just not working. Letting children choose the book can boost their level of interest, lets them lead their learning and make choices that the reader can extend on. “When a child chooses a book, they enjoy the autonomy of sharing their choice with educators and peers and are often highly engaged during the reading process,” says Leonie. Favourite books can help them get excited about a particular story – “A lot of popular books are introduced to children at libraries, or at home, so they’re very familiar with the book,” adds Leonie.

Picture this

Another tool that readers have are illustrations, which children use to help them understand and contextualise a story. As the saying goes, ‘a picture tells a thousand words,’ – children notice everything, such as a character changing clothes from one page to the next. “Storybook pictures open up learning experiences for children where they can tell the story to one another, or write, or mark-make their own text. We often encourage them to tell us the story by showing them the pictures or verbally tell the story using created actions instead of just reading the text,” says Leonie.

Leonie’s top tips for reading to wrigglers

  1. Choose a story that will be engaging. Ask yourself if it’s age appropriate, if the length of the book expects the child to listen for too long, as well as if it’s about something that holds their interests.
  2. It’s all about timing. Ask yourself what time of day you’re reading the story and if there are a lot of disruptions, or noise surrounding the reading space.
  3. Involve the children as much as possible. Ask yourself how they can participate in the story with common phrases and if there are opportunities to introduce actions.

If we’re honest with ourselves – wriggling is often more of a problem for us as the reader, not the toddler. Wriggling is not a guaranteed indication that a child isn’t engaged; watch them closely, and you’ll soon learn how they’re taking in the information, even while they look busy doing something else.

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