Most of us know about the importance of reading to our children. We already know that it is important to read to the kids in order to foster their vocabulary and intelligence. We know that children who are regularly read to are more likely to turn out to be well read and successful adults. We know bedtime stories should form an important part of a child’s night time ritual.
But surely, not all stories are appropriate for all ages. In this article we explore which kind of stories and story books go well for which age . Please note that these are only an indicative suggestion. Parents can determine what stage their child fits in, and choose stories for her accordingly.
1. Age 0-1 year
While some experts argue , and so does our mythology, that unborn children in womb also listen, understand and gain from stories, I doubt so. The American Academy for Pediatrics recommends reading to children from 6 month of age. However, kids this young, or younger if you prefer to start early, can not understand the concept of reading. So you can choose from Dr. Suess or Cosmopolitan or your Newspaper, it makes no difference. The child still gets your time and proximity, and is still exposed to the language, which is all a child gathers from stories at this age. The up side with using newspaper as a source is that your knowledge of current affairs might increase dramatically.
2. Age 1-2 years
Children this age have started comprehending that the pictures (and not words) in the books actually correspond to things in real life. So an 15 month old baby realizes that a picture of the flower in a book actually symbolizes a real flower. This is a great leap in understanding. Choose books that have single simple pictures that the child can relate to. Books that have one picture a page are ideal . Examples of a bad choice of book would be a book with cartoons instead of real photographs, or a book with complicated photographs. You can use a book to discuss about the object. For example, a book that says C for CAT and has a cat’s picture can be used to explain the meeow sound of cat, or that cat’s baby is called a kitten, etc. Towards a later stage the child would also like a simple, easy story attached with the pictures she is watching.
3. Age 2-3 years
This is the age when kids understand that the world is vast, and full of exciting things, animals, machines and what not!! Use their natural curiosity to teach them about animals , values, cars, utensils, anything!!! If you tell your baby the story of how Tajmahal was made, she’ll remember the details, and would save you the trouble of increasing her General Knowledge by immensely mundane and boring ways later. The point is, at this age and later, stories can be used very effectively to teach child a lot of things. The topics can vary from Traffic rules to general etiquettes, seven wonders to mythology, from dinosaurs to river Nile.
4. Age 3-4 years
Children start recognizing alphabets at this stage. They realize that letters make words, and words make stories!!! When you read a story to your child, move your finger along the sentence you are reading. This is a deceptively simple thing, but it drives home the point that stories come from sentences made by words. Your child might also learn to recognize some frequently repeated words just by this simple procedure. You can also choose to change the story a little bit and let your child be the hero. Just change the name of key characters of the story and watch the face of your baby light up like a 100 watt bulb!
5. Age 4-5 years
This is the age when kids believe they have truly become big. And why not, they can do so much themselves and reading is just a step away! We as parents can make learning to read fun from them. Choose easy to read books about a variety of subjects that your child shows interest in. Dr. Suess’s books are world-renowned for their easy readability. Let the child take his own time reading. Be patient. He might be able to read a word in one page, only to get stuck with the same word in the next page. Reading is a very slow process for kids, and our hurrying up is only going to make it tougher for them. Celebrate small accomplishments, and help when asked.
6. Age 5+ years
Now is the time for you to handover the selection to your child. You might not always agree with her decision, but do not force the issue. If she chooses Nancy Drew by looking at the attractive cover, gently explain her that it’s not a 6 or 7 year olds’ book. If she insists, let her choose. She’ll soon come to trust your suggestions.
Stories are children’s window to the world. They are also a very important tool for the parents. Parents can use bedtime stories to explore hard to lecture areas, like sharing. You can also spread values in a non-threatening way. Avoid stories with scary stuff like monsters that can produce nightmares. Remember, one sure shot way of making a story smash-hit with the kids is to customize it. Little Medha will sure be interested in ‘Medha and the three bears’, and what will charm Pratik more than ‘Pratik and the beanstalk’!