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Encouraging Children to Read

The best way for parents to help their children become good readers is to read to them--even when they are very young. When adults read aloud, children quickly learn that a book is a wonderful thing.

Parents can start reading to children soon after their birth. Although children won't fully understand the story or poem, they will simply enjoy hearing their parent's voice.

Parents will want to provide picture books for infants and simple word and rhyming books for toddlers. Preschoolers enjoy books that contain short stories as well as information about the world around them.

Reading is more than just saying words. It's a shared activity between children and caring adults. Children can also learn a great deal about language by hearing parents and grandparents read aloud. Children benefit most from reading aloud when parents:

  • are enthusiastic about the experience.
  • give children time to look at the pictures and encourage them to hunt for objects in the pictures.
  • discuss stories with children.
  • help children learn to identify letters and words.
  • use an index finger underneath words so that children connect the print to the story.
  • talk about the meaning of words.
  • answer questions asked by children at the time they ask them.
  • continually re-read children's favorite books.
  • compare experiences in books with like experiences in children's lives.
  • encourage children to read with them when phrases are repeated in a book.
  • ask their children questions related to the book after reading to them.
  • encourage children to make up their own stories. Parents can write down the stories and then read them back to children.

Help children to create their own books by using their own stories and cutting out magazine pictures, photos and/or children's art work.

Parents will want to keep plenty of books around for children to pick up and parents should set up a regular routine for reading such as nap time and/or bedtime.

Children also get the impression that reading is valuable when they see their parents enjoy and benefit from reading. When parents read at home and check out library books for themselves, as well as their children, parents model the pleasure and importance of reading.


Jones, Claudia, Parents are Teachers, Too, Williamson Publishing Co., Charlotte, VT, 1988.

Lynch, Priscilla, Hello Reader-Level 1 Series, Scholastic, Inc., New York, 1994.

Prepared by Lisa K. McMurtry, Extension Educator, Family Life.