Reading to Babies and Preschoolers

Parents are their children’s best teachers! Babies and preschoolers who are read to several times per week develop early reading skills that prepare them for learning to read once they enter school.

The foundation of reading and writing skills begin with the child’s experience with being read aloud to, learning new words, and language based play. Reading aloud to children is essential and should begin as early as possible. Motivating and encouraging the love of reading early in life sets the stage for a child’s future!

Tips for Reading to Babies to age 2:

Share books often with the baby during quiet times together.

Even though the attention span of the baby is short, continue to share books with him in short increments of time (1-2 minutes).

Choose books that are bright, have distinct pictures (one large picture per page), and with few or no words. Talk about the pictures!

Use soft books that the baby can hold, mouth, and experience without worry to parent.

Develop the baby’s vocabulary by talking about things in the environment, showing her objects and labeling them, and use descriptors such as “the big, red ball.” By the age of 12 months, children use 2-10 single words. By age 2, children use 100-250 single words to communicate.
Point out words and common signs in the child’s environment. “McDonald’s” is one of the most commonly recognized sign or word for children.

Tips for reading to children ages 2-3 years:

Read and share books with the child everyday. Make it part of the daily routine. Reading before bedtime is often a good time to establish a reading routine.

Gauge the mood of the child before sharing a book to ensure that he is ready to share in the experience. If not, try again when he is ready to share.

Asking the child to tell about the book is just as important at this age as reading the books to him. Ask him questions that require the child to use his language skills rather than a simple yes or no response.

Show the child how the book is held, turn pages, and encourage scanning print left to right by pointing as the simple sentences on each page are read to the child.

Encourage vocabulary development by talking about the pictures in books, labeling objects and events in the child’s environment, and have the child repeat simple nursery rhymes and word plays. Use rhyming words to describe the world such as “Fun in the Sun!” Children by three years of age typically use 300-600 single words and chain 5-7 words in sentences.

Help the child re-tell a simple story in order of events. Help him by modeling as necessary.
Children at this age are interested in learning letters and beginning to recognize that letters have sounds. “B” is for ball. It makes a “ba” sound.

Children love nursery rhymes and finger plays. Children are beginning to recognize that words are made of smaller sounds or parts.

Tips for reading to children ages 4-5 years:

Encourage and praise the child for pretending to read. He may actually be able to recognize many of the words in a familiar book.

Play word games with the child such as rhyming words in short phrases such as “Fun in the sun!” Categorize words by the beginning sounds and put two words together (toothbrush).

Encourage vocabulary development by asking the child questions about the book, encourage him to re-tell the story, and label new pictures as the book is read aloud.

Present the child’s name in print and the names of family members. If the child is in preschool, he may be able to recognize the names of his friends.

The child may be ready for Level 1 reading books that encourage sight word reading.

Enroll in a reading circle at the local library and have the child check out books and return books to the library.

Expose the child to multi-media print through computer software and online games such as Click N Learn.

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