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Parents and Caregivers Build Strong Minds and Strong Relationships

We know you want the best for your child, and we invite you to begin a parenting practice which will benefit your child the rest of his or her life—reading with your child at home  20 minutes a day from birth through elementary school. Children whose parents read with them learn to read well and are typically proficient readers by third grade. It’s as simple as that! This section suggests age appropriate activities and books for your baby, toddler and preschool child. It also summarizes how your school-age child learns to read. And you’ll find suggestions of books to enjoy with your child during the early years of elementary school.

The ABCs of Reading With Your Child

A. Aloud

Read aloud 20 minutes a day with your child. From birth to age 5, this enjoyable activity provides 600 hours of essential pre-literacy experience before entering school. Once in school, it’s essential to continue the read-aloud habit throughout the elementary school years.

B. Basic Knowledge Before Entering Kindergarten

At age five your child may:

  • listen to a book and retell the beginning, middle and end
  • know 12-15 upper case letters (A, B, C)
  • know 12-15 lower case letters (a, b, c)
  • know sounds of 12-15 letters
  • recite six to 10 nursery rhymes
  • know some print concepts (e.g., reading moves left to right, meaning comes from words, pictures help meaning)
  • speak in complete sentences
  • print first name using upper and lower case letters.

Please visit the website of our premier program Ready! for Kindergarten®for further information on how you as a parent can take an active role in your child’s kindergarten readiness.

C. Conversations

Have frequent conversations with your child. Reading is about language. Immerse your child in it. Talk often. Listen, and ask your child questions that require more than a one or two word response.

Stimulating Brain Development

Reading with your child at home from birth literally wires brain cells together in networks that later facilitate independent reading. Brain research shows that those linked brain cells enable a child to:

  • detect the different sounds in words (phonemic awareness)
  • recognize letters and develop strategies to figure out new words (decoding)
  • develop real-world understanding of what the words refer to (create contexts for understanding meaning)
  • build an oral and listening vocabulary (approximately 5,000 words by kindergarten).

Reading With Your Child Helps Bonding with Books

Reading with your child every day builds strong minds and strong relationships. Your child, snuggling in your lap and enjoying your attention and laughter, is learning to love reading. As long as it is a happy experience, there is no wrong way to read together. Reading aloud is practically free, you can do it anywhere, and children often beg for “just one more” story. Even parents who are not fluent readers can provide a good experience for their children by telling stories from their lives, from their imaginations, or from pictures in wordless books. It is best to read to your child early and often, but it is never too late to start opening the reading door for your child.

The Value of Literacy

Children who read succeed in school and in life. The simple act of enjoying books together every day from birth through elementary school establishes essential reading skills while building warm relationships. Your love and time are priceless. The reading skills you nurture are worth a quarter of a million dollars. For every year you read with your child, average lifetime earnings increase by $50,000. You make a $250,000 gift to your child by reading aloud just 20 minutes a day!1 1. Lynn Fielding, Nancy Kerr, and Paul Rosier, The 90% Reading Goal (Kennewick, WA: The New Foundation Press, 1998), page 68.