Making Reading a Routine Reality

 Reading with kids

Last month’s blog, Enjoy Reading with your Child, reminded and re-motivated me to put into practice more of what we know about reading. Yet reviewing the Top 10 Tips has given me room for greater reflection and left me with some food for thought. By sharing here, I hope that we might encourage and learn more together.

1. Make books part of your family life – Always have books around so that you and your children are ready to read whenever there’s a chance.

We have a few low bookshelves dedicated to our kids and they’ve always enjoyed being able to access them freely (even if it sometimes drove us to distraction during the early toddler years!). Though we have books around the house, I must admit that we don’t actually read them very often, especially since having our 3rd child last year, and our three- and five-year-old can see that 90% of our reading is on a screen. So, in order to change that, I’m going to make a concerted effort this week to establish my own reading routine that involves sitting down with a book.

2. Join your local library – Get your child a library card. You’ll find the latest videogames, blu-rays and DVDs, plus tons and tons of fantastic books. Allow them to pick their own books, encouraging their own interests.

To be honest, I don’t know if we have a local library here in Malaysia as I’ve not looked into it (yet?), although there are some books shared via our local community hall. Fortunately, we’ve also been given and found plenty of books over the years but I’m nonetheless looking forward to showing Dino Books to my kids this week, too. And, I’m especially excited by the variety of stories from around the world. We always let our children choose what to read for a bedtime story or any other time so I wonder what they will choose next.

3. Match their interests – Help them find the right book – it doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, poetry, comic books or non-fiction.
On rare occasions when our children haven’t been able to choose, we’ve made suggestions that have almost always been well-received, perhaps because they’re still so young! One thing that has been noticeable, however, is the relative lack of lead characters and role models for girls, although this has been gradually changing over the years. For anyone interested, A Mighty Girl, is a great resource.

4. All reading is good – Don’t discount non-fiction, comics, graphic novels, magazines and leaflets. Reading is reading and it is all good.

We encourage our kids to read anything from signs and car registration plates to whatever they notice and ask us about. That said, I think we could still point out and ask them more, as well as play more reading games to develop their letter recognition and phonics skills. Oxford Owl, for example, offers a host of age appropriate ideas.

5. Get comfortable! – Snuggle up somewhere warm and cosy with your child, either in bed, on a beanbag or on the sofa, or make sure they have somewhere comfy when reading alone.

Happily, this usually seems to be an easy and enjoyable one to achieve, though sometimes us parents have trouble staying awake.

6. Ask questions – To keep them interested in the story, ask your child questions as you read such as, ‘What do you think will happen next?’ or ‘Where did we get to last night? Can you remember what had happened already?’

Usually, I’ll ask them about the pictures, e.g. Who do you think that is? Why is he in trouble? What should he do? At the moment, we finish 99% of the books we read in one go, but when we start reading longer ones, the other questions here will definitely prove useful so it’s good to keep them in the back of one’s mind.

7. Read whenever you get the chance – Bring along a book or magazine for any time your child has to wait, such as at a doctor’s surgery.

As my mum did this with me, I’ve done the same with our kids and keep a book with their medical records, another in the baby bag, and with their spare clothes – all good to go. Now I just need to remember to change them from time to time, too!

8. Read again and again – Encourage your child to re-read favourite books and poems. Re-reading helps to build up fluency and confidence.

Like many if not most kids, ours will ask to read something they like again and again (though less often as they’ve gotten a little older, thankfully). To save myself from getting bored after the nth time, in addition to trying different voices and speeds, it can be fun to add and/or change bits, and see how they react. Asking different questions each time has also been interesting and surprising at times.

9. Bedtime stories – Regularly read with your child or children at bedtime. It’s a great way to end the day and to spend valuable time with your child.

For us, we may be out right up to their bedtime at the weekend, meaning that the kids fall asleep in the car on the way home. During the week, I guess that we have bedtime story on 2 nights a week. This is definitely an area that could benefit from commitment and effort to establish a reading routine, and setting myself a concrete goal of 3-4 out of 5 week nights plus Sunday night is the first step to making that a reality. Dino Books can also offer me a ‘Plan B’ on nights where I’m alone with the kids and our one year-old needs prioritizing.

Incidentally, if you’re looking for extra motivation, research by Professors Kalb and Van Ours in 2013 indicates that the effects of routine parental reading can be quite significant, increasing not only reading but other cognitive skills at least up to 10-11 years old. For example:

“Children four to five years old who are read to three to five times a week have the same reading ability as children six months older (who are read to only twice or less a week). Reading to children six to seven days a week puts them almost a year ahead of those who are not being read to. It was also found that reading to small children has a positive effect on the development of numeracy skills.” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 3rd 2013

The benefits seem to continue for the rest of their lives and, notably, “The results indicate a direct causal effect from reading to children at a young age and their future schooling outcomes regardless of parental income, education level or cultural background” (Kalb and Van Ours, 2013).

10. Rhyme and repetition – Books and poems which include rhyme and repetition are great for encouraging your child or children to join in and remember the words.

Luckily, quite a few of the books we have are written in verse, and they are indeed fun and memorable. Songs and nursery rhymes can also provide excellent opportunities, of course, for rhythm, rhyme and repetition.

Over the past month, whilst I felt that I made some progress in reading with my children, it seems mostly due my unconscious mind seeking to follow up on what we know to be important. However, taking conscious action during the next month should further help. So, what’s helped and helping you to make routine reading a reality?

 Philip Shigeo Brown

Language learning process of children

Language learning process of children 

Birth: Early crying, babies’ attempt to communicate

5 months: Cooing, making sounds like ga-ga, gu-gu

1st birthday: a few words like doggie, milk, dada

18 months~24 months: 2-word phrases such as eat now or baby cry

2 years~: Acquisition of  about 200 new words a month

2.5 years: 3-word sentences such as no want carrots

5 years: Understanding and correct production of grammar


Do Baby Signs Programs (Sign Language) Make Smarter Babies?

Baby Sign language does NOT make babies smarter

Do Baby Signs Programs (Sing Language) Make Smarter Babies? (p.51)

To investigate the question of whether baby signs programs help children acquire language earlier or advance their cognitive development, in 2003 researchers J. C. Johnston and colleagues examined seventeen recent studies of baby signing. Johnston found that the studies did not support the big claims made by the infancy industry, that baby signs help make babies smarter or acquire other languages sooner. Many of the studies they scrutinized only looked at a few children, had poor follow-up (they didn’t look at their language development for long enough periods of time), and little detail (for example, not enough information on how often the parents and children signed), and overall, the industry’s claims went much too far. What’s more, the researchers noted that “parents can be stressed by the challenges of meeting demands of work, caring for a young child, and other family and personal obligations, and experience guilt if they feel they are not doing everything recommended by infancy specialists and the infancy industry.”

Source: King, K., & Mackey, A. (2007). The bilingual edge: Why, when, and how to teach your child a second language. New York: Collins


Language and Young Children (Ages 0–2) : How to Teach Toddlers and Infants a Language


Creating Good Language Learning Environments for Very Young Children (Ages 0–2) (p. 63)

  1. • Direct lots of rich, meaningful speech toward your child from birth.
  2. • Encourage friends, relatives, babysitters, siblings, and other visitors to speak and play with your child in the second language.
  3. • Engage in interactions that pique your child’s interests—for example, by using attention-grabbing toys, picture cards, or other props while you use the language.
  4. • Build up positive associations by singing and dancing to silly songs, listening to music, and playing games in the language.
  5. • Read stories to your child. Interact both with the book and with your child (for example, by acting out the stories and using funny faces and voices). Keep this light, fun, and brief.
  6. • When you’re looking for child care, find someone who speaks the second language.
Source: King, K., & Mackey, A. (2007). The bilingual edge: Why, when, and how to teach your child a second language. New York: Collins


What to do when children reject to speak in the 2nd language (e.g. Spanish)

What to do when children reject to speak in the 2nd language (e.g. Spanish)

Cases that worked (from Bilingual Edge p. 244-245)

“• Anna (mother of Javier, age five): “We’ve had the most success using reverse psychology. Javier is super strong-willed and it’s actually helped at times to say to him something like ‘Spanish is only for grown-ups.’ Nothing makes him want to use it more than thinking he can’t.”

• Lucinda (stepmother of Matilda, age four): “Matilda went through phases of responding to us in English when we would use Portuguese with her. We just made a point of continuing in Portuguese. We didn’t switch to English, but we didn’t make a huge deal about it either and eventually the phases passed and she started using more Portuguese again.”

• Fabio (father of Lorenzo, age six, and Alessandro, age four): “I decided to turn speaking Italian into a game. The three of us took turns being the ‘English policeman’ each day. The policeman’s job was to fine whoever was caught speaking English. The penalty was ten cents into a jar. It made sticking with Italian more fun for everyone and really helped—at the end of the month we’d go out for pizza with our earnings.”

• Maria (mother of Samantha, age three): “When Sammy was little I would just pretend I didn’t understand English. She had to use French in order to get what she wanted. As she got older, she realized pretty fast that I understood English perfectly well. I don’t ignore her requests in English now, but ask her to say it in French in the same way most parents ask their kids to say please or thank you. I’ve explained to her that this is our special secret language that only the two of us know, so we want to make sure we practice it.”

• Cristina (mother of Jason, age nine, and Sandra, age six): “Once the kids got to be about four, we instituted a ‘beeping policy.’ Even though Spanish is my second language, my husband (who is from Venezuela) and I decided to make Spanish the only language of our house. Instead of nagging them, or saying, ‘Speak Spanish’ a hundred times a day, we ‘beep’ each other if we are caught speaking in English. The kids love to ‘beep’ us and shout ‘BEEP!’ if they catch me using English with my husband. It’s made a huge difference in keeping Spanish the only language of our house.””

Source: King, K., & Mackey, A. (2007). The bilingual edge: Why, when, and how to teach your child a second language. New York: Collins


Top Ten Reasons Why Speaking Two Languages Is so Cool

Top Ten Reasons Why Speaking Two Languages Is Cool

10. I can have private conversations in my second language.

9. When I told (friend, teacher, neighbor) that I speak two languages, s/he was thrilled/very impressed.

8. I can meet more people from around the world (list of potential places where your child can meet people who speak the second language).

7. Many athletes are bilingual, like Yao Ming, Roger Federer, and Maria Sharapova.

6. I can wear and read clothes that have the print of the second language.

5. Many of my favorite celebrities like Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Lopez, or Yo-Yo Ma speak two languages, or more!

4. I can make more friends (list the names of your child’s bilingual friends here).

3. After finishing school, I’ll be able to get an awesome job that pays more, like………

2. I can help other people communicate who don’t speak two languages.

1. I feel proud and good about myself.

Source: King, K., & Mackey, A. (2007). The bilingual edge: Why, when, and how to teach your child a second language. New York: Collins (p. 242-243)


Types of bilingual education


“Maintenance bilingual education: These programs are to help children become both and biliterate. In the United States, students in such programs typically speak a language other than English at home.

Transitional bilingual education: These programs aim to help children transition from their native language for example, Spanish, Cambodian, Portuguese, Arabic) to the language of the ma ority culture (in the United States, English . Content matter is taught in the child’s first language initially and the child simultaneously receives instruction in English as a second language. Later, the child is moved into classes taught in English for all sub ects.

Immersion bilingual education: Students are generally native speakers of a ma ority language for example, in the United States, this means children are English speakers , and 50 percent or more of the content matter is taught in a second language (percentages vary across schools). The idea is that students are fully immersed in the second language throughout the school day.

Two-way (or dual-language) immersion bilingual education:

These programs aim to help native speakers of a language other than English (such as Spanish) to learn English, while at the same time helping children who already speak English to learn this other language. Children from both language groups are together much of the day, and content matter instruction is delivered in both languages. The goal of these programs is to help promote bilingualism, biliteracy, and crosscultural understanding for all.

(Source: this link doe snot work although listed on King & Mackey, )”

Code-mixing is typically shortterm phase for children learning two languages. This is perfectly normal and quite common.

Many of the skills that children develop to learn a second language can be used to learn a third. (p.229)

On page 51 King nad Mackey state that Baby Sign language does NOT make babies smarter

Source: King, K., & Mackey, A. (2007). The bilingual edge: Why, when, and how to teach your child a second language. New York: Collins


How to Create a Good Language Learning Environments for Preschoolers

How to Create a Good Language Learning Environments for Preschoolers

• Have fun integrating the language as a part of your daily routines. For example, sing morning songs in the language, play alphabet and counting games, guessing games, and have a word of the day.

• Read stories to your child in the language. Keep these light, fun, and brief. Encourage your child to interact with the book and you (for example, together, act out the stories, use funny faces, give voice to the characters).

• Find other children who speak the target language for your child to play with. Make these language dates fun by providing props (treats and toys, musical instruments, scavenger hunts). Children learn a lot from each other. Even finding children a bit older than your child will provide positive “big boy” role models.

• Look for games in the target language, including things like board games and flash cards that encourage interactions.

• Find funny cartoons and characters that use the target language.

• Use crafts as an opportunity to speak and interact in the target language. Consider making cultural learning opportunities out of the craft time as well.

• Play songs in the second language in the car or use headphones on public transport.

• Be enthusiastic and positive about learning the language.

• Don’t be overly focused on perfection or correction, instead focus on what your child has achieved.


Source: King, K., & Mackey, A. (2007). The bilingual edge: Why, when, and how to teach your child a second language. New York: Collins


Positive Thinking, Positive Attitude: How to be Positive by Martin Seligman

Strategies for enhancing happiness


  • Mate with someone similar, communicate kindly and clearly and forgive faults
  • Maintain contact with your extended family
  • Maintain a few close friendships
  • Co-operate with acquaintances
  • Engage in religious or spiritual practices


  • Secure physical and financial safety and comfort for yourself and your family, but don’t get on the hedonic treadmill of consumerism
  • Periodically enjoy fine weather
  • Live in a geographically beautiful environment
  • Live in an environment where there is pleasing music and art

Physical state

  • Maintain good health
  • Engage in regular physical
  • exercise


  • Use skills that are intrinsically pleasing for tasks that are challenging
  • Achieve success and approval at work that is interesting and challenging
  • Work towards a coherent set of goals


  • Eat quality food in moderation
  • Rest, relax, and take holidays in moderation
  • Do co-operative recreational activities with groups of friends like music, dance, physical work projects, and exhilarating activities (sailing/surfing)


  • For excessive striving for material gain to increase happiness, accept that you will inevitably habituate to material goods and situations that initially bring increases in happiness


  • For low self-esteem due to negative comparisons with media images, judge yourself against your immediate local reference group and those worse off than yourself, not the false images of the media; check the validity of resources and happiness of media images.
  • Set realistic personal goals and standards consistent with your abilities and resources Inequitable reactions to losses and gains
  • For disappointment associated with inequity of reactions to gains and losses, expect to get small increases in happiness from large gains and successes; and large reductions in happiness from small losses and failures

Distressing emotions

  • Avoid distressing situations; focus on non-distressing aspects of difficult situations,
  • Assertively challenge distressing people, challenge pessimistic and perfectionistic thinking
  • Challenge threat oriented thinking and practice courage by entering threatening situations and using coping strategies to reduce anxiety
  • Avoid provocative situations, focus on non-distressing aspects of difficult situations
  • Assertively ask provocative people to be less provocative, stand back and practise empathy

Source: Based on Argyle (2001); Seligman (2002); Diener et al. (1999); Buss (2000); Myers (1992); Lykken (1999).

Quoted from Positive Psychology by Martin Seligman, 2004, Brunner-Routlege, New York, NY (page 39-40).

Top Ten Most Widely Spoken Languages in the World (PERCENT OF WORLD POPULATION)


1. Mandarin Chinese – 882 million
2. Spanish – 325 million
3. English – 312-380 million
4. Arabic – 206-422 million
5. Hindi – 181 million
6. Portuguese – 178 million
7. Bengali – 173 million
8. Russian – 146 million
9. Japanese – 128 million
10. German – 96 million