Reading with Twins - How to Read with Two

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Reading with Twins. Fuse / Getty Images

Reading with children can be an enjoyable experience for parents, and extremely beneficial for children. Reading can affect children's' brain development even at very young ages. Even babies find delight in the activity, through being held close, hearing the sounds of an adult voice and being the focus of their parent's attention. Toddlers learn from looking at pictures in books and from associating sounds with words and symbols.

Reading to children builds pathways in their brains that they'll need later in life when they learn to read themselves.

The benefits remain for older children, fostering communication with parents, stimulating their imaginations, expanding their vocabulary and reinforcing their reading and writing skills. For parents, reading to their children can provide precious opportunities for bonding and generate treasured memories.

Reading to twins or multiples is particularly important. Multiples are often at a disadvantage when it comes to speech development and may suffer delays in their language or learning skills. Being read to can help them overcome some of the issues. However, many of the factors that contribute to the problems also prevent parents from finding opportunities to read with their twins. Parents of multiples are clearly stretched thin by the demands of caring for two or more children.

It's hard to find the time or opportunity to read to them, and when they do, it can be an effort in frustration for everyone.

Parents of twins will recognize a common scenario with twin toddlers: first, they can't agree on which book to read. Then they compete for lap space and painfully jockey for position in front of the book, jostling with knees and elbows.

Finally, they interrupt the reading as they talk over the reader, and each other, in an effort to make themselves heard. Sound familiar?

But, reading with twins can be a pleasurable experience. It just takes a bit of extra planning and preparation.

Taking Turns

It's important to make a conscious effort to give each twin an individualized reading experience from time to time. It's a terrific way to spend one-on-one time and each child deserves to be the sole focus of a reader's attention. Parents can accomplish this by taking a tag-team approach, with mom reading to one twin while dad reads to the other. If both parents aren't available for simultaneous reading, then taking turns is a good option. Designate a listening spot for the waiting twin, and then snuggle up to read the other one. It can take some time to establish the routine, but most children will adapt and learn to wait patiently for their turn.

All Together

It's not impossible to read as a group, and it can be a lot of fun. Small children can nestle together in an adult's lap.

Or use a roomy chair or sofa to accommodate everyone. Snuggling in bed, with the reader in the middle, also works. Find a position that's comfortable and allows everyone equal access to the book's pages.

Enlist Help

Remember all those offers for help you received when your babies were newborns? It's time to rally the forces. When time is tight, bring in some backup. Babysitters, caretakers, grandparents, neighbors and older siblings can all make excellent candidates for readers. Most will be excited at the prospect (and perhaps relieved that you're not asking them to help with something more distasteful or difficult!)

Choosing Books to Read

First, always choose books that are age appropriate. This site provides numerous articles about choosing books based on age, ability, and theme. For babies, look for sturdy books that can hold up against a twin onslaught of grabbing hands and exploring mouths. Board books and fabric books are good options.

For older babies and toddlers, pictures and textures enhance the reading experience. Preschoolers have good memories and enjoy books with stories that they can retell. Their attention spans are expanding and they can listen to longer and more complex books. Introduce chapter books to older multiples (ages 4 -6, depending on the child) as they get older, but alternate them with favorite picture books.

As soon as your multiples are able to express a preference, let them choose the books they want to read, even if they return to the same favorites again and again. Let them explore interests by finding books about their hobbies or curiosities. Books are a terrific way for children to learn about their world. (There are many wonderful books featuring twins and multiples. For some recommendations, see Top 10 Children's Books About Twins & Other Multiples.)

Finally, make reading with your multiples an interactive.experience. Talk about the story, beyond just reading the words on the page. Discuss the illustrations. Ask questions and encourage responses. Let your twins read along. Try changing the words of familiar favorites and see if your twins catch your "mistakes." (This can produce howls of hilarity!) Make reading together fun and enjoyable, and the experience will not only benefit your twins but prove pleasurable for parents as well.

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