Parents, encourage your child to read

July 24, 2015

URBANA, Ill. –The best way to help children become good readers is to read with them, beginning shortly after a baby is born, said Cara Allen, a University of Illinois Extension family life educator.

“Research consistently shows that children who are read to become readers themselves,” the expert noted.

For infants, reading is first about the enjoyment of hearing their parent’s voice. Using a soft, soothing, sing-song voice can also help to calm an infant and get them ready for sleep.   Further, reading to an infant establishes a ritual of reading that is a foundation for toddlers’ and preschoolers’ more complex interaction with books, she said.

“Because children love to imitate adults, let your child see you reading, but if you don’t like to read, act enthusiastic when reading with your child,” Allen said.

Make sure that several books are always easily available to your child so she can pretend to read or bring you the book for you to read with her, the specialist suggested.

“Continually re-read favorite books,” Allen said. “Children will begin to recognize words when they see them over and over again. You can help with this by placing a finger underneath words so children can connect the printed word with the word they hear. And encourage children to read along when phrases are repeated in a book. Goodnight, Moon is a good example.”

Toddlers enjoy simple word and rhyming books; preschoolers like books that have short stories. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the perfect book for your child’s age range. For example, you can read only some sentences on the page for toddlers or make up a sentence about the picture on the page (“Oh look, the bunny spilled his milk.”).

For preschoolers, you can read the story itself or ask him what is going on in the picture and expand from there. If your preschooler says, “The bunny spilled his milk,” you can ask, “Who will clean up the milk?” and continue the conversation about cleaning, chores, mealtime, and other topics.

“Expanding beyond what is printed on the page is called interactive reading. This type of conversation about books helps not only with children’s reading skills, it also helps children develop vocabulary and conversation skills,” she said.

Parents can do a lot to prepare their child to read. Being able to read well will give your child an advantage in school and life, she added.

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