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Reading to your child

Read Me a Book and I'll Tell You a Story

One of the easiest ways to help your child prepare for success in school is something you do every day...What is it?


Beginning at birth, babies absorb all that is going on in the world around them - particularly the language that surrounds them. You may notice how babies first learn to recognize the sound of their parent's voice. Then, before they can even understand the words, they have learned that the tone of your voice says a lot about the meaning of what you're saying. These are critical steps in language development.

It's never too early - or too late - to start reading with your child every day. Your local library is a great resource for free books.

It's recommended that parents start reading to their children at birth, but every age child can benefit from reading every day. Look here for some ways to engage your child in reading at his or her age:

Birth to 12 months

  • Very young children enjoy seeing and hearing the same books again and again. Encourage your baby to look at the pictures and touch the book.
  • At this age, it's also important to model reading. Reading a newspaper or magazine in the presence of your child shows that you value reading in your home. Some parents even choose to read the newspaper aloud to their infants. Even though the baby is too young to understand, reading aloud is proven to be helpful in her development. And, babies just enjoy hearing the sound of their parents' voices.

12 to 24 Months

  • Start to talk with your child about the book you are reading to encourage the development of vocabulary. You might point to a picture and tell him, "That's a truck. A yellow truck." Then ask him, "Where are the wheels, can you point to the wheels?"
  • As you're reading a story, try to help your child identify words that describe emotions and feelings. You might point to a picture of a smiling child and say, "That baby is happy - do you see the smile on her face?"

2 years & up

  • Using the pictures in a book, encourage your child to make up a story that goes along with the pictures. It doesn't matter if the story they tell is the story that is written in the book; there is no right or wrong. The importance of this activity is that it helps your child practice new words and engage in story telling with an adult.

This type of storytelling is called dialogic or "shared" reading. Shared reading is a simple concept, but requires a major change in the way we think about reading to children. Shared reading involves three simple steps during the reading process:

  • Comment on something in the book and wait for the child to respond with a comment.
  •  Ask questions about what is or will happen and wait for the child to talk about it.
  •  Respond to the child's comments positively and add a little more comment of your own.

Using these steps shifts the roles in reading so that the child becomes the storyteller. As an adult, you'll be challenged to patiently provide supportive comments and leading questions in response to your child's attempts to retell the story or expand upon it in his or her own words. With practice, you'll learn to give up the traditional role of "reading to" your child and become the listener. You might be surprised by how much your child already knows, what interests your child and what he or she is thinking about.

Curling up in a chair together and enjoying a favorite book in the arms of a loving adult not only builds pre-reading skills, it nurtures a bond between the child and adult, giving the child a safe place to express feelings and build confidence with new language skills. This early enjoyable experience teaches young children that reading is fun.

Click here for a list of suggested books.

Look here for other ways to engage your child in reading: