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Family Files

Encouraging Your Child to Read

Reading is, and always has been, an important source of enjoyment for me.  When I was growing up, we always had books around. My parents, who didn't always have much extra money to spend, would even let me subscribe to a child's magazine.  (Anyone else remember Jack and Jill magazine?  I just dated myself, didn't I?!)

My parents did a lot of things right to encourage me to read, but there is even more that can be done.  The best way to help children become good readers is to read with them.  Research consistently shows that children who are read to become readers themselves.

Begin reading with your child shortly after he is born.  For infants, reading is about the enjoyment of hearing their parent's voice.  Using a soft, soothing, sing-song voice can also help to calm an infant and get them ready for sleep, an added bonus!  Further, reading to an infant establishes a ritual of reading that is a foundation for toddlers' and preschoolers' more complex interaction with books.

Because children love to imitate adults, let your child see you reading.  Or, if you don't like to read, act enthusiastic when reading with your child.  Also, make sure that several books are easily available to your child so she can pretend to read or bring you the book for you to read with her.

Continually re-read favorite books.  Children will begin to recognize words when they see them over and over again.  You can help with this by placing a finger underneath words so children can connect the printed word with the word they hear.  You can also encourage children to read along when phrases are repeated in a book.  Goodnight, Moon is a good example.

Toddlers enjoy simple word and rhyming books while preschoolers like books that have short stories.  It doesn't matter if you don't have the perfect book for your child's age range.  For example, you can read only some sentences on the page for toddlers or make up a sentence about the picture on the page ("Oh look, the bunny spilled his milk.").

For preschoolers, you can read the story itself or ask him what is going on in the picture and expand from there.  If your preschooler says, "The bunny spilled his milk," you can ask, "Who will clean up the milk?" and continue the conversation about cleaning, chores, mealtime, and other topics.

Expanding beyond what is printed on the page is called interactive reading.  This type of conversation about books helps not only with children's reading skills, it also helps children develop vocabulary and conversation skills.  These skills, along with the ability to read well, will give your child an advantage in school and life and maybe, like in my case, a hobby for life.