'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Monday 12 July 2010

Guest Post: Reading to Wrigglers

Babies Love Books!

Thanks to Catherine Oehlman for this guest post on a topic she is passionate about: early literacy. You can visit Cath's blog, Squiggle Mum at squigglemum.com.

Many a mummy-friend has confided to me that reading to their toddler is nigh on impossible. My daughter is four and to be honest I didn’t ever have trouble reading with her. She was always excited about books and content to sit with any adult who would read to her. My twenty-two month old son, however, has given me an insight into the frustrations other mums have shared.

He was easy to read to as a baby because he stayed still. Then he learned to roll, and rolling lead to crawling, and crawling lead to walking, and now he runs and dances and climbs and bounces and never stops moving! I’m glad he’s a happy, active little boy - but getting a boy like that to sit still for a story can be a challenge.

To every parent trying to read to a toddler like mine, I have one thing to say: persevere. It is worth the effort. The phase might be painful but it doesn’t last long in the big scheme of things. Please don’t give up on reading to your child between twelve and twenty-four months just because it’s hard. This is a really important time developmentally, and the benefits of reading aloud are undisputed.

If you’ve got a wriggly-jiggly little one who doesn’t want to stop for a story, here are some tips you can try:
  • Make reading aloud a regular, predictable part of the bedtime routine. Bath-teeth-story-sleep works for many families.
  • Be realistic about your child’s attention span. A rough guide is one minute per age (so 2yr old = 2mins).
  • Select sturdy board books with no more than a sentence or two per page. Touchy-feely books are good for wrigglers, but I mostly look for board books with a plot.
  • Don’t be fooled into thinking your child needs more variety. They want repetition more than anything else. Just put 3-4 books on the shelf and choose from those. (Yes, again and again and again...)
  • Sit in a position that helps your child to sit well too. Some parents lie down with their child. Others hold their child firmly on their knees. I like to sit cross legged on the bed and nestle my wriggly boy into my lap.
Persevere through this patch and you are likely to be rewarded with a two or three year old who not only enjoys stories but is also capable of sitting still and listening. Give up now and it could be a battle you fight for a long time.

I’m pleased to report that my son is almost through this phase. His four favourites are:
  • Where Is The Green Sheep? (Mem Fox)
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
  • Kiss Kiss (Margaret Wild)
  • That’s Not My Robot (Usborne books)
We must have read those books a hundred times. We still occasionally have a troublesome night, usually when Daddy is reading with him. Young children are very perceptive when it comes to understanding the boundaries adults put in place, and my boundaries are a little tighter than Daddy’s! Still, for the most part we both thoroughly enjoy reading aloud to our boy, and he has come to love that special time. It has definitely been worth the effort.

Do you have a little wriggler who struggles to settle for stories? What are your toddler’s favourite books?