How to raise a reader

It’s never too early to begin reading. Early Childhood Behavior expert Anastasia Moloney explains why

A widely known fact is that a child’s brain develops dramatically in the first three years of life. However, a lesser known fact, is that extensive research has identified that one of the best ways to encourage this development is through reading to your little one. Here are some pointers to encourage strong reading habits early on that will stick with them as they grow!

  • Start early: Babies love to hear your voice! If you establish the routine early they will be excited to explore books with you.
  • Read anywhere: Whether it’s street signs, billboards, or the back of a cereal box, there are always opportunities to explore letters and words whatever your surroundings.
  • Every second counts: Squeeze in a book in between activities or while waiting for an appointment or something, don’t get discouraged because you don’t have a large chunk of time to read.
  • Acknowledge their preferences: Allow them to explore various types of books to establish their own preferences. Let your child share his/her preferences with you.  Then introduce new topics to see how s/he responds.
  • Start your own library: Have books easily accessible to read together or for your child to explore independently.
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition: Children love hearing the same story over and over again. Allow your child help you fill in the end of sentences on familiar stories or tell you the story.  Encourage new questions about the story or additions to it.
  • Interactive reading: Read with varying tones and voices. Let your child turn the page. Encourage them to touch, feel, open, or otherwise engage with interactive books. Talk about the pictures – you don’t just have to stick to what’s written on the page. Ask them questions and let them ask you questions.
  • Associate the words on the paper: For older toddlers you can start showing them where the words are and those that have meaning to tell the story. This is a great introduction to basic reading skills.
  • Let them interrupt you: Let them ask questions about the pictures, let them tell you about the story, or ask questions. Encourage them to go down the “rabbit hole,” you may be surprised where their imagination leads you!
  • Bottom Line: Have Fun! Story time and reading should be a fun, enjoyable experience. Let them control the pace or listen to their preferences, questions etc.  You want them to be excited about reading and cement a love for it.

Here are a few books that we love for different age groups:

From birth

  1. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes: All over the world, babies are different. Yet in some ways they are very much the same: each one has ten little fingers and ten little toes – to play with, to tickle, to wave. And each child is very, very special to its parents
  2. Baby’s Box of Fun Board Book SetFilled with the most popular Karen Katz illustrated lift-the-flap board books, this set includes “Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?, Where Is Baby’s Mommy?,” and “Toes, Ears, and Nose.
  3. Baby Love Board Book Set: It’s all about baby love in this precious boxed set of Karen Katz board books! Filled with three of her bestselling board books, it will have parents sharing even more hugs and kisses with their little ones, one story at a time. The collection includes Mommy Hugs, Daddy Hugs, and Counting Kisses.

1-2+ years

  1. Goodnight Moon: In this classic of children’s literature, beloved by generations of readers and listeners, the quiet poetry of the words and the gentle, lulling illustrations combine to make a perfect book for the end of the day.
  2. The Day the Crayons Quit: Kids will be imagining their own humorous conversations with crayons and coloring a blue streak after sharing laughs with Drew Daywalt and New York Times bestseller Oliver Jeffers.
  3. Where the Wild Things Are: In the forty years since Max first cried “Let the wild rumpus start,” Maurice Sendak’s classic picture book has become one of the most highly acclaimed and best-loved children’s books of all time.
  4. Wiggle Book: For energetic toddlers (are there any who aren’t?), here’s a book that invites them to wiggle along with the story. Told in rollicky, wiggly rhyme that begs to be read again and again, Doreen Cronin’s latest romp will have toddlers wiggling, giggling, and then (hopefully) falling into bed, blissfully exhausted!

3+ years

  1. Guess How Much I Love You Pop Up: When Big and Little Nutbrown Hare show off how much they love each other, don’t you wish you could watch them stretch out their arms, hop as high as they can, and tumble upside down with their feet in the air? Well, now you can! Beautifully designed flaps, tabs, and pop-ups respect the integrity of the original story and illustrations while adding a delightfully kinetic 3D element that is truly irresistible.
  2. The Giving Tree Book: Since The Giving Tree was first published fifty years ago, Shel Silverstein’s poignant picture book for readers of all ages has offered a touching interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.

4+ years

  1. My First Book of Dinosaurs: The third title in National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book series, this book is for kids 4- to 8-years-old who LOVE dinos! The prehistoric world comes alive with dinosaurs small, big, giant, and gigantic, with stunning illustrations by Franco Tempesta—who illustrated National Geographic Kids The Ultimate Dinopedia. Bursting with fun facts and age appropriate information, each spread features a different dinosaur, along with simple text in big type that is perfect for little kids.
  2. The Lion and the Mouse: In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney’s wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes.

By reading regularly with your child/children, you are supporting their development, building their vocabulary, connecting with them through quality time, and creating strong and healthy reading habits as they grow into school age and can eventually read themselves.

Just remember… “When children are read to by people they love, children learn to love books” – Reach Out and Read Colorado.