Kids should have the opportunity to snuggle up with a book and enjoy it, beginning as soon as their chubby fingers allow. They need to discover that books are good anytime.
Spending time alone with books as a pre-reader encourages practicing things such as turning pages, noticing illustrations, making up a story from the pictures, or repeating words and phrases recalled from a read-aloud.
“Book-looking” is both stimulating and soothing in a way that screens can’t be. Plus, when the little kids in the house can occupy themselves with books for a few minutes, parents can get a few chores done!
It is worthy entertainment when youngsters spend time independently looking at books. It doesn’t even matter if books are held upside down.
Set up a space. A basket of books on the floor or a low shelf lets even crawling babies grab the books they want to browse. A dedicated cozy reading spot is a plus.
Show kids how to do it. They need to know that reading every word of a book isn’t the only way to enjoy it. For instance, telling the story from the pictures is still “reading.” (They should also see you enjoying reading.)
Keep your standards flexible. Young children are constantly collecting data about how things work, including books. Flipping pages quickly, hunting for specific pictures, or just lining up books on the floor to make a “train” are all early reading behaviors, too. This is what kids are supposed to do.
Give lots of praise (but don’t get in the way). Naming and celebrating behaviors you want kids to repeat is always helpful. Make a big deal about their skills as a reader (making sound effects, opening and closing flaps, changing voices, etc.), but not necessarily right away! If you are always in the picture, they lose their independence. Kids are more likely to explore books on their own when you appear unavailable.
So, go do some chores. They’ve got this!