10 Myths About Reading Books with Your Child
1. Bedtime is the best time to read books
Incorporating shared book reading into your child's bedtime routine is wonderful, but don't limit yourself to one time of the day. Books can, and should, be read all throughout the day!
2. You have to read all the words on the page
Depending on your child's stage of development, reading the words on the page is not as important as engaging your child in the book. Reading the words on the page begins to become more important after around age 2. Even after age 2, you do not need to read every word, but should begin to highlight important words (e.g., words that rhyme). Here are the important reading goals at each stage (Paul & Norbury, 2012):
0-2 years: holding the book right-side up, turning pages, pointing to pictures, answering questions about pictures, early rhyme development, distinguish print from pictures
2-5 years: understanding that we read print from left to right, can break sentences down into words and can break words into syllables, can produce rhymes, can produce words that start with the same sound (e.g., "bat" starts with "b" and so does "ball"), recognizes and names letters, understands that letters have sounds, recognize their name in print
5-7 years: begins to independently read picture books for fun, can break words into their individual sounds (up to 3-4 sounds), can blend 3-4 sounds together to make words, can play with sounds in words (e.g., "What's top without the p? ->tah"), learns vowel sounds, learns all letter names and consonant sounds, beings to learn sight words.
3. E-Books are the same as paper books
The amount that a child communicates when reading an e-book versus a paper book continues to be a source of debate.
Here is what we know about the differences between e-books and traditional books:
Children learn more of the story details when reading a paper book compared to e-books (Parsh-Morris et al., 2013).
Interactive e-books can be distracting for many children which impacts children's ability to focus on the story (de Jong & Bus, 2002; Parrish-Morris, 2013).
Parents are more likely to talk about how their child relates to the story when they read traditional books. When they read e-books they are more likely to talk about the buttons and games in the e-book (Korat & Or, 2010).
E-books can be used in addition to, rather than as a replacement for, traditional paper books.
4. If your child isn't reading the words in the book they aren't enjoying the book
When children are first learning about books and reading (0-2 years), they are just beginning to learn that words and pictures are different. They often do not have the attention span needed for longer books with a lot of print. You can still use these books with your child without reading all the words. During the early preschool years, your child learns the most through conversations with you about the story and the pictures.
5. Your child must sit through the entire story
Your child may not have the attention span for a full book. Forcing your child to sit until the end of the book will not show them how fun books can be. Instead, make every interaction with a book an enjoyable experience by talking about the pictures and the story, allowing opportunities for your child to fill in missing words in familiar books, or changing a word in a familiar book to a silly word (this will often lead to an interaction with your child). Your child will learn that the time they spend reading with you is fun-filled.
6. If your child comes up with their own story they are reading books "wrong"
If your child is coming up with their own, creative story, it is something to celebrate! Coming up with a story is a difficult skill that involves understanding a sequence of events (beginning, middle, and end), making predictions, and imagination. You can join in on the fun by asking your child questions about their story such as, "Why do you think that would happen?" "What do you think will happen next?" "What happens at the end?"
7. How you read a book to your child is not important
You can change how your child interacts with books. You can direct the conversation to make the content relevant to your child's interests and developmental stage. For example, if you were reading a book about a dog, you could read the book word by word OR you could talk about the dog in the book and how it looks like your family dog and how it looks different from their friend's dog. Think about which type of book reading YOU would prefer? Reading books word by word limits the amount of opportunities for learning. If you make the experience fun for your child they are going to be more interested in reading books.
8. All books are created equal
The Hanen Centre wrote this great article about which types of books are the best for your child based on their age.
9. You have to own a lot of books
Reading books with your child does not depend on your ability to purchase and store hundreds of books. The library has an endless supply of books and is an exciting outing for your child to pick out a new book. My family tries to go to the library every week and it is one of our favourite things to do!
You can also create your own books for your child (or with your child) using everyday materials.
10. You can read too many books
If your child is interested in reading, let them read. Try to include a variety of different types of books. One suggestion I would make is to give your child opportunities to read familiar books (a favourite book they read every day), less familiar books (books that they have read before but don't read often), and a new (or new-ish) book. This way their language development is supported by providing repetition (familiar books) and expanding their vocabulary by exposing them to new experiences/content (new books and less familiar books).
de Jong, M. T. & Bus, A. G. (2002). Quality of book-reading matters for emergent readers: An experiment with the same book in a regular or electronic format. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(1), 145-155.
Korat, O. & Or, T. (2010). How new technology influences parent-child interaction: The case of e-book reading. First Language, 30(2), 139-15
Paul, R., Norbury, C. (2012). Language Disorders from Infancy through Adolescence: Speaking, Reading, Writing, and Communicating - Elsevier Ebook on Vitalsource (4th ed.). St. Louis, MI: Mosby Inc.
Parish-Morris, J., Mahajan, N., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Michnick Golinkoff, R. & Fuller Collins, M. (2013. Once upon a time: Parent-child dialogue and storybook reading in the electronic era. Mind, Brain, and Education, 7(3): 200-211.