Reading with children

Parents take an important step in their child's life by choosing to read aloud with them.



Start early


One of the simplest things you can do is to begin early. Don't wait until the child's first day of school to begin at-home reading. Instead, begin reading to your child on her first day at home, or even while she's in the womb.


Why read?


By setting aside private, uninterrupted reading time with your child, you are telling him that he is cherished. This sets aside time out of the busy day when he can get your undivided attention, enjoy a conversation, ask questions and be physically close.


Experts say a child should hear 1,000 books before she learns to read for herself. By reading aloud to your child, you're setting her up for success when she enters school. Not only will she have good reading skills, but her vocabulary and general knowledge will be more advanced. She'll also understand that books have different parts – beginning, middle, end – or different genres – fairy tales, mysteries, poems.


If your child enters school with these skills, he or she will be better equipped to excel in school and beyond.


When and where to read


Read aloud to your child as often as possible, but at least once a day. At least one of your daily reading sessions should be at a regular time and place; many families opt for bedtime in the child's room. Your reading spot should be well lit, comfortable and free from distractions such as television or foot traffic.


Encourage spontaneous reading by leaving ample reading material around the home. Bring books in the car, on the bus, or whenever your child might be bored or might have to wait. Some families even keep additional books in a special location and save them for a delicious reading treat. This can build anticipation for one-on-one reading time.


Text can be found all around us. Make a game out of reading cereal boxes, postcards, recipes, street signs, shopping lists, and so on. This improves reading skills, but it also makes children proud to take part in what they consider "adult" reading. Reading all kinds of text also lets children know that reading has many practical purposes.


What to read


Books that are rich with repetition, rhyme and rhythm are fabulous for your child. These books teach children about patterns. When a child hears a rhyme or word again and again, she will eventually be able to "read" these words before you do, even if she is not reading them phonetically. Being able to anticipate and read some of the repeated words will build her confidence.


Since repetition is so important, it's perfectly okay to read a book over and over, even if it's not a particularly wonderful book. There's no need to discourage your child from having a treasured book that she wants to hear again and again.

A good habit is to read three books a day: a familiar book, a new book and an old favorite.


How to read


Have fun as you read! You are not your child's teacher, and you shouldn't try to be. Your job is simply to show how enjoyable reading can be.


  • Read with expression by showing emotions in your voice and face. Is the main character a villain with a deep, rumbling voice, or a snobby woman with a pinched, nasal whine? Can you read extra slowly when an elephant is plodding along, or faster and faster as a hurricane approaches? Or perhaps you'll make your voice very soft as you describe a gentle summer wind.
  • Pause for effect, such as before a character speaks, or before a surprise.
  • Run your finger under the words as you read them. Even though your child may not be able to read them phonetically, she may begin to recognize certain letters or words.
  • Ask questions about the book before and after reading, such as:
    What do you think this story is about?
    Who might the hero be?
    Do you think the ending will be joyful, sad, strange, etc.?
    What do you think of the drawings?
    Who was your favorite character?
    Would you tell your friends about this book?
    What was the scariest, happiest, funniest part?
  • Play games with your child. Have a letter hunt and ask your child to find all the b's on the page. Or, have a word hunt and ask your child to point to a word every time it is repeated in the book. Point out words that rhyme, and ask your child to listen for other words that rhyme. Congratulate your child for finding each letter or word and remind him how brilliant he is.
  • Encourage your child's participation. Praise them for noticing details, pointing out a rhyme or examining an illustration. Encourage her curiosity by saying "What a great question!" or "Good wondering! Let's find out!"
  • If the book is long and you are reading it in more than one sitting, stop at a suspenseful part and continue it later. This builds anticipation.
  • Savor the last line. Read it slowly, with emphasis.

Making reading friends


Wonderful ideas and suggestions can be found at bookstores and libraries. Develop a relationship with your local bookseller or children's librarian, and attend reading events such as book sales and story times.




Suggested reading

  • Bradbury, Judy. Children's Book Corner: A Read-Aloud Resource with Tips, Techniques and Plans for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents: Levels 1-2.
  • Bradbury, Judy. Children's Book Corner: A Read-Aloud Resource with Tips, Techniques and Plans for Teachers, Librarians, and Parents: Pre-K-K.
  • Fox, Mem. Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever.
  • Loughran, Ellen. Books to Read Aloud with Children of All Ages.
  • Trelease, Jim. The Read-Aloud Handbook.

Suggested Web resources

  • Mem Fox
    "I've been a writer for many years, but for many more years I worked in a university, teaching teachers how to teach reading and writing."
  • Read Aloud Resources
    "Resources for parents, careproviders, and other caring adults"