Reading With a Child

Reading regularly with young children stimulates optimal patterns of brain development and strengthens parent-child relationships at a critical time in child development, which, in turn, builds language, literacy, and social-emotional skills that last a lifetime.
American Academy of Pediatrics
Literacy Promotion: An Essential Component of Primary Care Pediatric Practice

Reading With A Child

Reading with a child every day from birth through elementary school has a lasting, positive outcome for children, families and communities.

Reading aloud is practically free, you can do it anywhere, and children often beg for “just one more” story. Even adults who are not fluent readers can provide a good experience for 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. Reading aloud with children is linked to these powerful results:

  • Expanded knowledge and vocabulary
  • Improved attention span and memory
  • Increased curiosity and imagination

Plus…

  • Greater self-esteem, empathy, and confidence
  • Stronger, closer relationships
  • Higher educational achievement and quality of life

Reading Tips

Hold the little one on your lap and snuggle; use a lot of eye contact and voice inflection. Smile, relax and enjoy. Let baby know you think books and reading are fun. You are promoting brain development as you read, sing and talk to a baby.

At this age, babies need to hear language and experience its rhythm, rhyme, vocabulary and syntax. Slow down and enunciate each word clearly. Don’t rush; it’s okay to linger on a page if the baby is interested.

Baby is also absorbing the social context of the interaction—cheerfulness and enjoyment. Positive emotions and experiences are important. Consider reading to baby in short segments, perhaps just a few minutes or pages at a time. When the baby turns away or gets fussy, that may be a cue to change activities and read again later.

Toddlers and preschool children benefit from the Three R’s: rhythm, rhymes, and repetition.

They are active learners, involve them while you read together. Break the 20 minutes of daily reading into smaller segments, perhaps 5 minutes each.

Discussion builds comprehension and communication skills. Ask who, what, why, when, where and how questions. At this age, children likely enjoy answering questions such as, “What is this animal?”, “How many birds do you see?”, “What color is this car?” and “What do you think will happen next?”

Smile, relax and listen. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the child to respond by counting to five silently in your mind. This is called “wait time” and shows respect for a child’s growing thinking and speaking skills.

Talk about the characters and what they are doing. Nudge comprehension skills by asking simple who, what, when, where, why, and how questions. Emphasize the meaning of the story.

This is a good age to use books about numbers, colors, geometric shapes and classifications. Children comprehend these concepts more easily when encountering them again later.

Rhyming is another valuable pre-reading activity. Poems and rhymes train children to hear the difference between the 42 sounds used in the English language. Children who come to school having memorized four-to-six nursery rhymes are better readers by third grade.

If you have been reading 20 minutes a day with a child from birth, you have given them almost 400 hours of pre-literacy experience. By now, the child may insist on reading together daily. They may prefer to hear particular kinds of books and will enjoy sharing favorite stories again and again, and again.

For children in kindergarten, assist them with exercises that help develop skills in sound recognition, letter recognition, simple blending and simple rhyming.

Blending may not be a term you are familiar with. It is when children can smoothly join the individual letter sounds together when sounding out words. For example, smooth blending of simple words is when a child is sounding out the word like cat as /ccaat/ instead of a choppy or segmented /c/ .... /a/ .... /t/.

In the first and second grades, there is additional focus on the three primary sub-areas of reading: accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.

By third grade, most children are reading by themselves. It is important to continue reading aloud to further develop essential skills with more challenging reading material. Plus it is a positive, rewarding experience.

When you read aloud, you can read books at the child’s listening level, which is higher than his or her reading level. This provides the opportunity to expand a child’s vocabulary. The wonderful, unique words found in children’s literature are often words we do not use in everyday conversations. A large vocabulary will improve the child’s comprehension as he or she reads more sophisticated books.

Make the most of reading aloud with children.

  1. Have fun and enjoy reading together. Smile, relax and focus on your child.
  2. Pick interesting topics. Reread favorites. Borrow a variety of library books.
  3. Read with enthusiasm and expression. Change your voice, volume and tempo.
  4. Pause to talk about the story, words, and pictures. Encourage conversations.
  5. Check for understanding. Ask and answer questions; explain new concepts.
  6. When your child reads, be positive and patient. Appreciate your child's effort.

Have you read with a child today?
It’s the most important 20 minutes of your day!

Additional Resources

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