Enlightening and Inspiring Generations with Generations of Ideas

Raising a Reader

What Books Do

What does a child learn from the experience of reading? Research overwhelmingly indicates that your child’s language and intellectual development benefit when you read with your child. But equally important is the close relationship the two of you build through reading together, and the life-long love of reading that this relationship encourages. Children come to love reading, not just because they find books interesting, but because it is a joyful, shared experience with you. They make the connection between reading and being close to you, and that connection makes them want to read more. The more they read, the more likely they are to pick up language and communication skills. They also gain an understanding of how the world around them works, how to express feelings and how to master life's challenges.  

Books offer children a wonderful opportunity for exploration. Whether it is guiding their imagination through a make-believe adventure, or helping them learn more about a new pet, books can provide pictures and stories about their favorite things.

Exploration is one of the main ways children learn about the world around them, and books provide a wonderful opportunity for curiosity. When you add books to their daily lives, a whole new world is open to them. As they hear a story, they wonder what will happen next, and they begin to understand that the words on the page are building a picture in their mind.  

Books can help young children explore feelings and master difficult situations, too. When children identify with the characters and situations in the story, it is an opportunity for them to “live through it” in the safety of the pretend world, and even to learn successful ways to cope.

The Gift of Reading Together

The joy of sharing books is a gift you can give children from the time they are born. Chanting nursery rhymes, singing songs, and reading stories can comfort and entertain even the youngest child.

What We Know About Early Language and Literacy Development

Known as "early literacy" development, language, reading and writing skills develop at the same time and are intimately linked. These skills develop in real life settings through positive interactions with books, paper and crayons and a child’s “important adults.” Early literacy is what children know about reading before they can actually read.

Early Literacy Does Not Mean Early Reading

Early literacy does not advocate "the teaching of reading" to younger and younger children. Formal instruction, which pushes infants and toddlers to achieve adult models of literacy (i.e., the actual reading and writing of words) is not developmentally appropriate.

What Early Literacy Does Advocate

 “Early literacy” emphasizes the natural unfolding of skills through the enjoyment of books, the importance of positive interactions between young children and adults, and the critical role of literacy-rich experiences.

Where to Start

Books that we like as adults are about things that capture our imagination --whether it's the thrill of a mystery or a documentary from history. It is the same for babies and toddlers--they like books about things that they find interesting. 
Very young babies like books with bright pictures and with baby faces. One-year olds often like books about the routines they are getting used to themselves, such as saying good-bye and going to bed. Toddlers are beginning to explore the world of friendship, so they love books that show children doing things they like to do, such as building with blocks or playing on the playground. They also are beginning to appreciate the story of a book, whereas a baby may only want to look at the pictures or feel the pages. Whatever the child’s age, books that are fun and interesting to the "reader" will be the ones that draw your child back--and are a great way to build a lifetime love for reading.

Just “Let It Happen!”

There is no "right" way to read with your baby, just be sure your child is engaged and having fun. Your child may want to read the same books over and over again. Let your child be in control of selecting what to read and turning the pages; together, you’ll have a wonderful time. Children model what they see adults and other children do. Children become interested in reading because they see “important people in their lives” using and enjoying books and other reading materials. Since play is the main way young children explore and try out their new skills, you may see your toddler playing with a book or even pretending to read--perhaps imitating you. If your toddler is speaking, you may even hear her imitate the words and intonation you use with the story--even though she doesn't know the words on the page.  It makes no difference if the book is upside-down, when your child models your reading through play. Although she may not know what the letters mean just yet, she is practicing and learning the behaviors and skills that go with reading--and discovering that reading is pleasurable and useful. She begins to feel like a reader long before she is, and this sense of competence likely motivates her desire to learn to read. 
This, then, is the “natural unfolding” of literacy...it is “what children know about reading before they can actually read.”

Tips for Raising a Reader

Begin when your child is born and spend time reading every day.
Sing to your baby.
Repeat nursery rhymes.
Visit the library. Borrow books to share with your baby.
Choose books with colorful pictures and simple words--or no words at all.
Read with expression--or just tell the story in your own words.
Hold the book so your child can see the pictures clearly.
Let your baby play with the book.
Encourage your toddler to find objects, repeat words, and talk about the story.
Reread your child's favorite books over and over again.
Use the technique of dialogic reading to help a child stay actively involved with a story and develop reading comprehension. Instead of reading the story straight through, ask the child open-ended questions about the story: "What do you think will happen next?"
Read or tell stories in the language you are most comfortable with. It doesn't have to be English!
Help your child develop phonemic awareness --the understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds--by playing games with the sounds of words and repeating rhymes.
Tell stories about your family and your culture.
Encourage older children to read to their younger brothers and sisters.
Be an example to your children; let them see that you read books too.

For book suggestions, ask a staff member in the Children's Department.