Nothing in your life will really change until your daily habits change.
The easiest way to maintain a consistent reading program with your baby is to TIE the new, desired routines to CURRENTLY EXISTING parts of your day.
In my house, that meant we would “wake up and read” every day. The first thing I would do when I got the baby out of the crib was to grab a basket of books, snuggle, and read with them on my big bed.
We read lots of books, but we especially loved the BrillKids and Preschool Prep book series. We used BrillKids paperback books to teach classic fables in a simplified, child-friendly way and to reinforce high-frequency words.
We used Preschool Prep board books and “lift the flap” books to teach colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. My kids loved Touch and Feel books that offered different textures for them to explore.
Later on, I also introduced the Preschool Prep Easy Readers and Meet the Sight words series. The font is generously sized and they have limited text per page, which makes them ideal for teaching little ones.
We read many others, including lots of homemade books, but those mentioned above were particularly beneficial for my kids.
Whenever I read to my kids, I ran my finger along under text to help them make the connection between written words and spoken words. As their own skills developed, it was adorable to watch them imitate what I had been modeling.
They would babble and interact with the book using their own tiny little fingers!
I also read to them excitedly and with inflection, trying out different voices for each character, which they particularly enjoyed. Later in life, I would discover that they never went through that phase of struggling to sound out words while reading in a flat, monotone voice, as many kids do.
They had intuitively learned to use natural rising and falling voice patterns when reading out loud.
Our “wake up and read” sessions lasted maybe just 5 or 10 minutes in the beginning, depending on their attention span that day. They were always freshest first thing in the morning and in a good mood, so it was a great time for positive interaction.
After reading time, we would head downstairs for breakfast and Little Reader lessons while they ate. I would hook up the laptop to the TV nearby, so the font was MASSIVE and perfect for a baby.
They were still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and they were going to eat breakfast every day anyway, so I figured I might as well show them their lessons in the process. They would watch a 5 minute Little Reader lesson from their high chair and maybe a quick youtube phonics video or two afterward.
When waking up from an afternoon nap, we repeated the book basket and snuggle time routine on my bed.
If there was a day I might have considering skipping it, they might toddle over to the basket and bring ME a book. I knew we had successfully built a routine because the kids actually helped reinforce it.
I would quickly show them the ABCs with flashcards during lunch time or let them watch a learning DVD right before naptime. They were tired so their bodies were still, and they would often cuddle their favorite blanket and doze off to it.
Of course, there were other learning moments sprinkled throughout our day, but these were the core behaviors that helped us stay on track.
And then there were days when someone was sick or maybe our schedule was unusual and we were rushing out the door, but I tried to make those days the exception and not the rule.
So what steps can YOU take to build a successful early learning routine for your child?
- Determine what time of day that your child is in a great mood and responds well to deliberate early learning interactions. Also, note when they are cranky and SKIP those times, for sure!
- Prepare your environment in advance. Prep a basket with the chosen books you would like to read the following morning. Make sure the tablet or laptop is charged and plugged into the big-screen TV so it’s ready to go.
- For the first month of building your new routine, put a star on your calendar for every day you stuck to the plan. It takes a dedicated parent to faithfully implement a learning program, so don’t forget to pat yourself on the back when you follow through!
- As your program grows, look for other teachable moments throughout the day. Those hidden opportunities might present themselves in the form of counting rocks your child found in the backyard or sounding out the name of the grocery store.
By implementing a learning routine that is tied to naturally occurring parts of your day, both you and your child will grow to EXPECT it.
So no matter how crazy your day gets or how swamped you are trying to catch up on laundry, at least your child will have benefitted from those specific, built-in times already set aside to bond and learn.