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 Reading to Children

By exploring the videos below you will find some  of the most effective and fun ways to get a child more involved with reading. The interaction of reading to a child promotes an emotional bond, develops social skills, and even enhances physical development.

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Ask Questions


Asking questions about a story before, during and after reading, will help your child develop comprehension skills. Before opening the book, show her the cover and ask what she thinks the story is about. Asking questions will encourage her to listen attentively and she will gain more from the story. You will give her a purpose for reading and listening. Involve her in the story. Relate her experiences with the story: “Do you remember seeing the lion at the zoo?” Even though she may not be able to speak, she can communicate by pointing to answers. Ask her to point to certain colors or objects. Pause to give her time to think about the question. She will continue to monitor her ability to understand what you are reading.


You might say something like:


"What do you think is going to happen next?"

Build A Library


Your child will love having herfavorite books nearby. A special place for her books shows the importance your family places on reading. Keep books in a cardboard box, a bottom shelf or in a drawer where she can easily find them. Infants may hold a book and babble to imitate an adult reading. This is called "Emergent Literacy" and is the foundation of skills children need for reading before they can actually read. Examples of these skills are oral language development, the sounds of letters that create words, reading from left to right, turning pages and holding a book. Children are considered "at-risk" if they have less that 12 books in their home and are not read to. Ask your family and friends to give books as gifts. Trade books with your friends to provide more variety. 

Find used books at:


  • Yard sales

  • Thrift stores         

  • Library sales

  • Flea Markets


 You might say something like:


"Let’s stop at this yard sale 

and see if we can find any story books."

Choosing Books


Make sure books are age appropriate. Infants enjoy books about familiar activities like eating, bath time, or playing with a ball in simple illustrations. He would like board books, vinyl or cloth books that he can taste and touch without tearing the pages.


Toddlers like books with more detailed illustrations and only a few words per page. Find books that relate to subjects about his life, like going to the doctor, day care or zoo. Get him involved in choosing the book and turning the pages.

Your child will enjoy books with rhyme and repetition.  Brown Bear, Brown Bear – Bill Martin


You might say something like:


"Let’s read this book about the brown bear. 

Do you remember the bear at the zoo?"

Drama Queen


When reading to babies and toddlers add some drama to your voice! Put yourself into the story. How would the character sound? Act out different characters, use funny voices and make facial expressions. Show enthusiasm. She will pick up on boredom and will lose interest quickly.Use props or puppets with the story. If the book is about a bear then let her hold a teddy bear. Pretend the bear is talking to her. Dramatic speech encourages the brain to release chemicals that help with memory. This will make connections in her brain. 


You might say something like:


"I can’t believe I’m making

these animal sounds! 

But just listen to her giggle!"


Enough Already!


Reading should be enjoyable for you and your child. But, if he loses interest, put the book away. You do not have to finish the story. Over-stimulating infants and toddlers is a common reaction to sensory overload. Think about all of the new experiences babies receive each day. If babies could talk they'd say, "Enough Already!" Know how to read his non-verbal cues.


If he likes the reading experience and is paying attention he may:

  •  Slow or stop sucking

  •  Relax his arms and legs

  • Reach out to touch the book

  • Coo and squeal


If he has had enough and doesn’t want to read anymore he may:

  • Begin to suck, get drowsy

  • Turn his eyes or head away

  •  Become rigid, limp or squirm

  •  Begin to cry, yawn, burp or hiccup.

Find Words Everywhere

Foster his awareness of words and letters. Point out letters and words on signs, restaurants, and food containers. Write and display his name. Say and spell his name frequently. Use plastic magnetic letters to play with on the refrigerator. Show him the letters in his name. Write names of things on cards and tape to the object. Point to the object, say and spell the word. Read this article about the wide variety of text available in your child's life,


You might say something like:


"See the red stop sign? That word is ‘STOP’.

It begins with the letter ‘S’,just like your name, Samuel."



Gift of Gab


The number of words a child hears each day influences his future intelligence. The more words he hears, the more quickly he learns new things. Use a variety of words to describe things.

“This kitten is (soft, orange, cute, or tiny).”


Talk in a natural, conversational tone. Talk face to face so he can see how your mouth forms words. Tell him what you are doing around the house. Talk with him about his day. Follow up on what he says even if it’s gibberish. Keep the banter going.


You might say something like:


"You’ve had such a busy day. 

What did you do today? 

You got up very early this morning 

and played at Grandma’s house."

Hand Movements


Hand movements will help her learn the meaning of words. Imitation will help her develop a better vocabulary. She will learn to control small muscles used for self-feeding, drawing, writing and playing with small game pieces.


She will adore clapping games as she learns the process of how to listen and follow directions.


  • Pat A Cake 

  • This Little Piggy

  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider 

  • If You’re Happy and You Know It


You might say:


"Pat a Cake, Pat a Cake, Bakers Man! 

Make me a cake as fast as you can! 

Roll it and roll it and mark it with a “B” 

And throw it in the oven for Baby and Me!"




Reading about new experiences will help develop an imagination. An active imagination can improve his ability to learn. He will extend what he is learning. He can be a sailor by using a laundry basket as a boat. Using his imagination can lead to the development of creativity. This will be a lifelong talent.


Go to Goodwill or yard sales for dress up clothes and props for pretend play. Find a police hat, a man’s suit jacket, a white doctor coat, nurse uniform, chef jacket. Pick up larger-sized Halloween costumes on sale. Use YOUR imagination!


You might say something like:


"Here’s a box of play clothes for you. 

Look at this hat! Try it on. 

Now you’re a police officer!"

Judging Children's Books


Thanks to  photographer Angie Hill for letting me  use this adorable photo of her son.

Children’s picture booksshould have some of the following:

✓ Colorful illustrations

✓ Shows appropriate behavior

✓ Logical sequence of events✓ Illustrations that fit the text

✓ Sturdy cover

✓ Size is easy to hold

✓ Has appropriate theme

✓ Is free of prejudice

✓ Appeals to at least one of the senses

✓ Appropriate vocabulary

✓ Helps children use their imagination

✓ Promotes an appreciation of animals

✓ Helps children deal with their feelings


You might think something like:


"Hmmm….this would be a good book. 

The story isn’t too complex

 and the illustrations are vivid."

Kindergarten Readiness


Success in school begins at home. Read to your child EVERYDAY! Use your finger to follow along. Let him repeat words or phrases from the story.


When children lack reading readiness before kindergarten, they will develop reading problems throughout school. He will need to know how to:

  • Listen to stories without interrupting

  • Look at pictures and tell a story

  • Recognize some site works like ‘STOP’

  • Talk in complete sentences

  • Identify rhyming words

  • Identify some of the alphabet


You might say something like:


"I’ll point to the words while we read this story. 

Count how many times you see the word ‘cat’ on this page."

Literacy Begins at Birth


Literacy is developed by many different activities: talking, reading, singing,and nursery rhymes. Literacy is part of a complex sequence that begins from your baby making sounds to scribbling. She will begin to understand the mechanics of reading like: how to hold a book, reading from left to right, and recognizing that the symbols on the pages are letters.


Hold the book so she can see the pictures. Use the illustrations for clues to the words in the book. You don’t have to actually read the story to her. Sometimes you can just browse through the pages and talk about the illustrations.

Help your child connect new information to what she already knows. In order for her to learn a new idea or concept she must first retrieve and build on prior knowledge.


You might say something like:


"See the brown dog?" (point to the picture)

"This is the word dog." (point to the word)

Make a Book


Purchase a small scrapbook or photo album with protective sheets. Cut pictures from magazines or catalogs, glue to paper or index cards.  Or use copies of family photos. Label the picture or photo with the word. Create a Bathtime Book


  • Make a book with pictures of things he knows or is fond of, i.e., different toys or household items.

  • Write a story with pictures about his daily activities.

  • Make a book with the letters of his name and a picture of something that starts with each letter.

  • Make an alphabet book featuring his family or activities.


You might say something like:


"Look at these pictures of things with wheels! 

Where’s the bike? Good!  

Point to the truck. Great! 

What is this? Can you say ‘wagon’?"

Nursery Rhymes


Nursery rhymes are interactive. Parent and child can recite them together.


Nursery rhymes contain ‘word families’, a group of words with the same ending. Children learn to read the smallest part of a word first. Later they will recognize bigger words with the same ending much faster.


  • Humpty Dumpty -  all, fall, small

  • Hickory, Dickory Dock - ock, dock, clock

  • Jack and Jill - ill, fill, spill

  • Hey Diddle Diddle - oon, moon, spoon


You might say something like:


"Let’s play the rhyming game.

What rhymes with ‘HILL’?  

FILL! That’s great! 

Now it’s your turn. 

Give me a word."



Over and Over

When an experience is repeated, connections between brain cells make a well worn path to each other. When brain cells are turned on, more connections are made. When he knows the story, he will be able to predict what’s going to happen next, which makes the anticipation all the more exciting.


If you have read a book several times, ask him to read to you (if he’s old enough to talk). You will be amazed at how much text he has memorized. Memorization skills will be needed when he is in school.  What are some things you had to memorize when you were young?


You might say something like:


"Pick out a book for us to read.

Okay, we’ll read this one again.

Can you tell me what’s on this page?"

Pack Books


Imagine her sitting on your lap, waiting for an appointment with nothing to do. Or visiting a relative where there’s nothing familiar to play with.


Pack a special bag with books to take everywhere. Write her name on a canvas bag using permanent markers.  Let her pick the books she wants to take.


When she gets older, pack plain paper, crayons, and coloring books to keep her busy at a restaurant or an appointment. Leave the bag in the car so it’s always there when you go somewhere.


You might say something like:


"It’s time to go to Grandma’s. 

Let’s pack some books to take with you."

Quiet Time


Cuddling with a book will calm your baby before bedtime. Choose a calming story. Use a soothing voice. Find a book with a soft rhythm.


If he is older, allow him to read in bed quietly during nap time.


  • Good Night Moon, Margaret Wise Brown

  • Say Goodnight, Helen Oxenbury

  • How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, Jane Yolen

  • Sleepy Bear, Lydia Dabcovich

  • The Napping House, Don & Audrey Wood


You might think something like:


"Oh gosh, why do I start yawning 

when I’m reading a bedtime story? 

This is supposed to relax him, not me!"



Make reading books a routine in your child’s day. Pick a time when a story can be enjoyed. All daily activities you do with her should be done on a routine basis and in a similar manner. She will feel more secure and will have something to look forward to. She needs to be able to count on certain events happening every day. This will develop trust in her world. 


What happens to your day if the alarm clock doesn’t go off? How is your routine changed?


You might say something like:


"Okay, Sweetie. It’s time for our ‘B’ words. 

Take a bath. Drink your bottle. 

Read a book. And go to bed.

Let’s think of some other ‘B’ words.

Here’s a ball and there’s a balloon. 

And this is the color blue."




Sing Songs


Singing increases a real bond between parent and child. Sing while dressing and feeding. Singing and dancing with him will make brain connections.


Singing to him will speed the process of learning new words. Change words to create interest. Fill your house with a wide range of music.


Lullabies are wonderful ways to communicate love and affection. Babies can hear music in utero and can remember the song after birth.


  • Rock A Bye Baby

  • Hush Little Baby

  • Lullaby and Goodnight


You might think something like:


"Well, here’s someone

who really appreciates my singing!"

Tell Stories


Teach her about the people in her world. Use photos of family members, point to them, and tell your child something about that person.


Tell her about yourself. Show her some pictures of you when you were younger, where you lived or about your family pet.


Make up stories about her. Children love to hear their name. You can talk about something that has happened in a story format. Or create a fictional story.


You might say something like:


"There once was a baby named Katie. 

She loved playing with her brother, Tommy. One day…" 

Use Sign Language


Infants can understand language shortly after birth. But they can’t speak until they are between 12 – 24 months. Your baby has the ability to learn sign language by 6 months.


When he learns to sign

  • He will cry less

  • He will be less frustrated

  • He will be able to speak earlier

  • He will have a higher IQ

  • He will have a larger vocabulary


Check the internet and your library for baby sign language books and videos.


You might say something like:


"Would you like a book?" 

(palms together like praying, open hands shaped like book, palms facing up)


 "Would you like more?" 

(with fingers and thumb together, palms facing down,tap fingertips together)

Vision Development


Vision development occurs in the first few months after birth. If infants have vision problems then brain connections will not be made because she’s not seeing and learning about her environment. Infants are attracted to high contrasting colors like black and white or red. Between birth and 2 months she can only focus on something 7 – 10 inches from her face. Between 2 – 4 months she can see 12 – 18 inches in front of her. She will enjoy looking at her own hands. At 6 months her eye movements are coordinated and smooth. She can see as far as 6 feet. By age 2 her vision is 20/20.


You might say something like:


"Let’s take a walk around the house

and see what we can find. 

Look! Here’s a picture. 

Who is this? 

Yes! It’s daddy!"

Writing Tools


Babies prepare for writing by using rattles to develop fine motor skills; the muscles in the wrist and fingers. Children will recognize that the scribbles they make are similar to the letters in books.


Encourage scribbling and pretend writing. Give your child safe writing props. Set him on a large poster or piece of cardboard with a chunky crayon. Help him make swooping motions. Show him the marks he made. See New York Times article, Occupational Therapy for Preschoolers.


Print large capital letters on paper; show him how to trace with his own crayon. Always print his name on his work. Display his work, hang on refrigerator or frame on the wall.


You might say something like:


"Oh, I just love this picture you drew! 

Let’s write your name on it. 

Can you help me spell your name? 

I’m going to hang this picture on the refrigerator

 so everyone can see it!"

X-plore the Five Senses


Your child will learn about her world by tasting, smelling, listening, touching and seeing her way through it. Expose her to new experiences by bringing books to life.


If you read about a zoo, take her to the zoo. Point out things from the book when you are at the zoo. Make animal sounds while reading to her.


If you show her the flowers in the garden, let her smell them. Find a book about flowers and gardens. When she is able to eat strained foods, find books with pictures of food she can eat. i.e., bananas, apples, carrots, cereal. 


Find books with textures and describe what she is touching.


You might say something like:


"This sandpaper feels rough like our kitten’s tongue!"

You Matter Most


You are his first teacher. Not Grandma, not the daycare worker and not the television. You are his role model and he will want to imitate EVERYTHING you do.


Your child should see you read too. Set aside a few minutes each day for your child to see you reading the newspaper, magazine articles, and novels.  If you are reading directions on a recipe, read aloud so he can hear you.


You can even pre-read the children’s book you are planning to read at night. 


You might say something like:


"Okay. Let’s read the directions for making this cake. 

First, we have to measure the water. 

Then crack two eggs."

Zoom to the Library


Make regular visits to your local library. Check out books for you and your baby. Let your child browse and become familiar with books. Show her how to sit on the floor and look at the books.


Join the free story time.  Ask your librarian when and where story time is held. Don’t forget to pack supplies to keep her comfortable during the visit.


Teach her to respect the books and treat books with kindness. 

Your most helpful phrase……. “Be nice to the book.”


You might say something like:


"Today is Tuesday 

and we are going to the library for story time. 

Let’s find your library books so we can return them 

and check out some new ones."

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