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Special thanks to Michelle Worthington, author to countless beautiful picture books and her latest middle grade, Sass and Traz Save the Library, for sharing her experience, knowledge and wisdom in fostering a love of reading and literacy in the early years… and especially so for those children who more easily disengage with books. You’ll love her personal story and the valuable tips she shares for parents and educators to create a spark between their children and different kinds of books.
We have all heard the age-old mantra that children should be read to from birth, and this is true. As kids get older, getting them to listen to a story can become more difficult. There is such a thing as a child who simply doesn’t want to be read to, who can’t sit still long enough or has trouble processing words and pictures at the same time. These children need to be introduced differently to the world of books and progressively to reading, in their own time and on their own terms. Just because they don’t have a natural affinity with books, doesn’t mean they should miss out on the benefits of story time, both when they are little and as they get older.
My youngest son, Tom, was born at 28 weeks. He has recently been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dysgraphia. Like lots of boys his age, he doesn’t read books for fun. As a picture book author, not being able to share books with him as he gets older just about breaks my heart. So, I have been working with him to find some age appropriate, sensory friendly ways to help him discover and embrace the magic of reading.
Children who are not interested in books can be put off by many things, some seemingly more significant than others but all of them need to be acknowledged and addressed. Every child is different, but let’s take Tom, for example. Firstly, the size of the book bothers him. Bigger is not always better. He will open the book to a page but won’t allow or initiate page turning. Even at 18 months old, everything still went in the mouth. He doesn’t like being read to with the book in front of him, but will listen if I am behind and eventually come to me when he is ready. We have never had a successful bedtime storytelling session whereas with my older two boys, we read a book or ten together every night.
My best tip would be don’t attempt to try and read books to a disinterested child at bedtime. They are tired and cranky, and you might be, too. Find a bedtime routine that works for them and run with it. Don’t feel guilty if you are not reading to them at night. The second tip is to keep it simple. Choose three books about subjects your child is familiar with and let them choose which one they would like you to read them.
• Let them touch the book before you start reading.
• Establish a comfortable personal space.
• Be slow and deliberate in your movements, especially when turning the page and pointing to words.
• Keep your voice low and calm, limiting expression to what is needed for understanding to begin with and then adding facial expressions and repetitive head movements.
• Look at the pictures in the book first before going back and reading the words if they are still interested. The pictures themselves will foster discussion and interaction.
• Allow fidgety behaviour and if the child is unable to sit still, stand up and walk around while reading.
For bigger kids, using books that twist an already known story is a great imagination starter. In chapter books for reluctant readers, like Sass and Traz Save the Library, try reading one chapter a night and follow up by going to the library to find books that interest them. This book is specifically designed for kids who aren’t natural readers by using short chapters, exciting last sentences and an easy to follow storyline that twists known content, encouraging kids to use their own imagination and make up stories of their own. It is the first book in a trilogy, ensuring the familiarity established in the first book will keep readers coming back for more adventures in a recognised and enjoyable format. Use non-fiction books from the library about subjects that interest them for learning extension.
This is a process and may have to be repeated many times before they become responsive to what you are trying to achieve. Don’t give up. The reward of parent-child bonding over a book is more than worth the effort.
Article by Michelle Worthington.
We are thrilled to help celebrate the release of the fun-tastical first book in the series by Michelle Worthington, Sass and Traz Save the Library, illustrated by Naomi Greaves, published by Daisy Lane Publishing.
Please follow Michelle on her website: Home (michelleworthington.com)
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