Help Your Baby or Toddler Get Ready to Read
You are your child’s first and best teacher. You know more about your child than anyone else does. You can help them learn to read!
Learning to read starts before children go to school. If you talk, sing, read, write, and play together, your baby or toddler will be ready to read when they start school.
All children, no matter how young, listen to people talk. It is how they learn new words and begin to understand the world around them.
- Talk with your child as you go about your day: making food, riding the bus, getting ready for bed, any time.
- Respond to what your child says. If your toddler says “truck,” you can say, “We saw a truck today.” You can respond to babbling or even silence.
- Use new words. If he or she says “banana,” you can say, “Do you want a banana? That’s a very healthy food.”
- Talk in the language most comfortable for you. Babies’ growing brains can easily learn more than one language.
Singing helps children hear the sounds that make up words.
- Sing the A-B-C song, nursery rhymes, funny songs or any songs you like.
- Clap to the rhythm.
- Sing songs in any language.
- Singing is a powerful way to connect you and your child to the world’s cultures.
Read with your child every day, and your child will learn to love books. Let him or her see you like reading too.
- It’s okay to read just a little bit of a book.
- Try board books. They have hard pages your baby can throw, bite, and hit.
- Your toddler can flip the pages and play with the book.
- Talk about the story as you read.
- You don’t even have to read. You can just talk about the pictures.
- Words are everywhere: on store fronts, magazines, and cereal boxes. Show these words to your child too.
Children learn early writing skills by drawing and scribbling.
- Put flour or rice in a pan and then put your baby’s hand in it. This is fun and starts developing the muscles needed to write.
- Give your toddler crayons and paper to use.
- Play with blocks or other toys with letters on them.
- Write your child’s name and show how the letters are formed.
When children play, they put ideas and feelings into words.
- Give your child lots of time to play.
- Play with him or her as much as you can.
- Play with books.
- If you read books about animals, make the animal sounds.
- Let your child play with books. Try making a tower and knocking it down.
- Keep books with toys, where toddlers can easily reach them.
Help Your Child Learn to Read
You can make reading a family habit. Read together, and read alone. When reading is a family habit and reading time is fun, your child will be a reader too.
- Borrow library books. Your libraries have areas with books at different levels, just right for you and your child to read. You and your child can talk to the librarian about what you like, and they can make suggestions for you.
- Keep your library books in a special place at home, like a basket or a shelf.
- Buy books at garage sales, flea markets, used or new book stores.
- Trade books with friends or relatives.
- Make your own books.
- Make up stories and draw pictures with your child.
Let your child choose the book. Children read better when they read books they like.
- Take 3 or 4 books off the shelf and look at the covers together.
- Talk about what might be in the books.
- Look for books with stories, and books about real things. Both are good. Easy books are okay; they make your child feel good about reading.
If a book seems too hard, look for books with:
- Shorter words
- More white space and fewer words
- Repetition or rhymes
- Lots of action
- Things that interest your child.
Re-read books if your child wants to. Repetition helps children learn. Find the right book for your child. It can have some hard words, but not more than five hard words on a page. Your child should be able to understand the story while reading it.
It should be comfortable, well lit, and quiet.
- Set aside 15 to 30 minutes for your time together, but stop when your child wants to stop.
- Turn off the TV, radio, and computer. Put away the phone. Focus on your time together.
- Sit close to your child. Hold the book so your child can see it easily.
Talk about the book before you start reading. Use the title and the cover to guess what the story is about.
- “It looks like a story about a dog. What do you think the dog is doing?”
- “There’s a snake on the cover. Do you think it will bite?”
Point out things the child already knows about.
- “Look, this boy has a baby sister just like you!”
- “Remember another story about this silly alligator?”
Ask a question that doesn’t have a yes or no answer.
- “What do you think will happen?”
- “What is this person doing?”
- “What if you had wings like this butterfly?”
Ask questions like these while you are reading the book, too.
Invite your child to read the book aloud to you while you sit and listen. Don’t criticize. Remember that children learn to read at their own pace. Wait to help until your child asks for it. If your child asks for help, first say: “Do you want to try it?” Then wait and count to five to yourself slowly.
If your child wants help, try these tips:
- Say, “Skip this word and finish the sentence.”
- Say, “Look at the picture for clues.”
- Say, “Use the first letter sound to guess the word.”
- Talk about the story to give clues about the word.
- Tell your child the word.
- Take turns reading.
- Read the book to your child.
Remember that children make mistakes while they’re learning.
- Do not interrupt to correct your child.
- You can help without correcting by letting your child try to work things out.
- Don’t get upset. If you stay positive, your child will too.
- If a child makes more than five mistakes on a page, the book may be too hard. Suggest an easier book next time.
During or after reading, take time to talk about the book. Tell your child the good things you notice. Find things to praise, like these:
- “I heard how you sounded out each letter.”
- “You figured it out from the picture.”
- “Good guess, that’s really close.”
- “You saw it didn’t make sense, and you tried another word that started with the same sound.”
- “You know some hard words!”
- “You read that long word all by yourself.”
If your child isn’t ready to read alone, keep reading with him or her.
- Keep using these tips. Every child learns at a different pace.
- Take turns reading words, or sentences. Follow your child’s lead.
- Try acting out the story with funny voices, sound effects, or even music. Your child can act it out with toys or costumes.
- The most important thing is to enjoy reading together. If your reading time is fun, your child will think reading is fun.