There is no arguing the benefits of reading to your child. It allows you to bond with your child , exposes them to new vocabulary , and expands their imagination among other things. While those are amazing benefits and being read to by a caregiver should continue to happen daily, there are also benefits to helping children learn to enjoy books independently. Children can productively spend time with books independently  before they actually learn to read. Building independent reading  habits with your child helps lay the foundation for a lifelong enjoyment of reading. 

There are 3 ways to  read a book. They can read the words , read the pictures, and retell in their own words what is happening in the story. Even if your child is not yet able to read all of the words in the book they may be able to identify a few words depending on what they have learned or are currently learning. They can look at the pictures and use their imagination to gather what is happening in the story. If they choose stories that you have already read with them , they can retell the story in their own words. 

Your child reading independently can also be beneficial for you as an adult.   As an alternative to screen time, it can allow you to complete different tasks while your child is entertaining themselves . 

Here are some practical ways to help your child start reading independently. 

  1. Introduce the idea – the next time your child asks you to read and you’re busy , instead of having them play with something else while they wait for you , give them the opportunity to read on their own. “  I’m a little busy right now , why don’t you grab the books and start reading on your own while you wait?, I’ll come join you in a little bit”.
  2. Make books accessible – keep books somewhere that your child can reach so that they can easily grab one , or a few when they want to independently read. 
  3. Don’t force it – while you want your child to develop this habit , forcing them to read independently , or  forcing them to continue to do it even after they have lost interest will only make them dread this activity. 
  4. Give them space – allow them the space to explore the books on their own. Instead of hovering as they do it , you can instead read your own book ( this is also a great way to model for them what reading on their own can look like) or complete a different task nearby.
  5. Don’t over-correct– As they go through the pictures and tell their own stories , you may want to jump in and tell them that it is not what’s going on in the story  , don’t . Allow their imaginations to run wild . There will be time to correct later on as you read the story with them. 

Encouraging independent book time in addition to your family read-aloud routine is a wonderful way to extend the enjoyment of books in your household and set your child up for a lifetime of enjoying reading. Give it a try!