Grow a Reader: Print Motivation

By Erin Kenderish

“That’s not what you do with a saw!” the preschooler said, giggling, as he looked at a page from Oliver Jeffers’ picture book Stuck.  Soon enough, the rest of the Grow a Reader class joined him in laughter as luckless character Floyd threw increasingly unrealistic objects into a tree, all in the effort to get his kite unstuck.

Such an interaction between book and children is a rewarding thing to witness. It’s also a perfect example of print motivation, one of the six early literacy skills that are important for setting your children on a successful reading path. Print motivation is an interest in and the enjoyment of books and reading. It’s an important practice that needs to be reinforced throughout childhood because, according to research by Sharon Rosenkoetter and Lauren R. Barton in the journal Zero to Three, “Reading together is more significant than targeting any specific content or skills.” Luckily, print motivation is also one of the easiest literacy skills to tackle.

Here are a few simple tips to help your child develop into a natural bookworm:

  • Keep reading time fun!  Don’t force your children to sit down and listen if they’re not interested. Doing so is a quick way to turn reading into a chore or punishment in the eyes of your children. Try singing and dancing to a few rounds of a simple song, such as Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. If they remain uninterested, try again later.
  • Going hand in hand with that, don’t worry about finishing a book. Engage your children as much as possible, and, when they lose interest, just continue another time.
  • Choose a book with a repeated phrase so your children can say it along with you.
  • Don’t be afraid to let babies explore (mostly by chewing) board books! That’s what they’re made for.
  • Children learn a lot based on your facial expressions and body language. So, if you’re having trouble keeping them interested, try having them sit facing you so that they can see your face and the book at the same time.

For some books to get you inspired, check out this list. And, always remember to have a great time reading with your children!

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