“Since their parents are the people they want to form a relationship with first and foremost, children view books mainly as a way to play and interact with mom or dad,” explains Catherine D’Anjou.
You don’t need to have any great acting skills to make reading more dynamic! All you need to do is let yourself get carried away by the fun you and your child are having with the book and let your imagination go. By naming the objects shown in the book and answering your child’s questions, you’re creating a dialogue with him. Catherine D’Anjou gives some examples of a few activities that will help spark your little one’s interest:
- Touching. Very young children learn via their senses. Touching, chewing and throwing a book are just part of the game of exploring this new object!
Reading produces the best results when it occurs in a family setting. Without parental involvement, the benefits of this activity are much less significant.
- Using a book for play. Hiding behind a book and playing peek-a-boo with your child will definitely get him laughing, and it will also help him to understand that you’re always there, even when he can’t see you. There are even books that have a circle cut out for a parent’s face to peep through (e.g. the books by Bénédicte Guettier, such as: Dans la jungle, 2010, La fête, 2002, Petit Théâtre collection published by Casterman).
- Imitating sounds. Try making animal sounds or the noise of a train or the sound of running water. As another example, knocking on the book as on a door before you open it and before you turn each page will help maintain or refocus your child’s attention.
- Playing “hunt and seek”. Play guessing games or look for specific objects as you go through the pages of a book (e.g. “Where’s the cow?”, “Show me the blue car.”). This type of game is perfect for stimulating and maintaining the attention of youngsters at times when they have to wait (doctor’s office, restaurant, while a younger sibling is being fed, etc.).
- Looking. Show your child the pictures and make connections with things he’s familiar with (e.g. “This is a cat, like Smokey, the cat next door”, “Look, it’s white, like snow!”).
- Putting the child in the story. Ask him to feed the animals in the book with his fingers, or “brush” the characters’ hair. You can also stop reading and ask him to tell you the rest himself; this will make him feel he has some influence over the story.
- Telling without reading. Make up your own story based on some of the pictures in the book, or tell the story in your own words. This is guaranteed to stimulate a younger child’s curiosity and encourage an older child to participate.
Don’t worry if your child wants to flip through the pages quickly, squirms around or grabs the book out of your hands. This doesn’t mean he’s not interested in the book; it’s just that he has a lot of energy and it’s difficult for him to sit still without moving. The important thing is to focus on what seems to capture his interest the most (e.g. the shapes, the colours, the objects shown in the book, the shape of the book, its textures…).
Books encourage parent-child interaction
Turn the pages slowly to give your child time to look at the details in the illustrations.
“Children have this natural tendency to sit in your lap and cuddle up to you when you look at a book with them. These times of closeness help develop the emotional relationship between parent and child,” explains Catherine D’Anjou, an author and literacy mediator with a background in psychology. When you explore a book with your little one, he feels special, cherished and valued, because your attention is focused solely on him and on what you are sharing through the book.
“Even a very young infant who doesn’t understand the story will experience a feeling of well-being while it’s being read, because his parents are in a relaxed frame of mind where they’ve stepped back a bit from daily life to spend time with their child,” observes Catherine D’Anjou.