Monthly Archives: February 2011

Lets Read!

Reading is undeniably one of the most prominent and accepted “good parenting” practices in the United States.  In a country that loves to debate the quality of everything, literacy has really never been questioned. Pregnancy books tell you to start reading to your child before the baby is born and you are expected to read to your child forever and always!  The US Department of Education Reading is Fundamental has a nice article about Reading with your Child that talks about when to start and how to make reading a part of your child’s life.
I find that many parents understand the importance of reading to their children, but there is very little advice about what to read, how to pick books, how long to spend reading, etc.  So here is my quick Reading Guide to reading with your pre-reader. (I will post later about working with your child to learn to read.)
What makes a kids book a good book?
The good thing with children’s books is they are generally short so you can, and SHOULD, take the time to read through books before you select one and check for some of the following criteria:
  • Age Appropriate.  This can be hard to determine, but a good place to start is to look at the age recommendations that often appear on children’s books or on   Also, consider the number of words per page and the type of vocabulary used in the book.  Too many words will test the attention span and interest of a young child and books filled with words that are too challenging for the child (or the parent for that matter) will disrupt the flow of the story and will potential hinder comprehension.  The nice thing about technology is that you can now “look inside” books online before purchasing them online.  This will give you a better idea of the words per page and the vocabulary in each book.  Also ask your librarian about what books might be appropriate for your child given their age and developmental abilities.  Parenting Magazine offers books for Building Baby’s First Library.
  • Comprehensible Storyline.  If the book you choose doesn’t seem to make any sense to you, it’s likely not going to make sense to your child.  Part of the reasons reading to your child is so important is it helps build language and literacy skills.  One important literacy skill is reading comprehension so begin to build on this skill early by selecting books that your child can understand and by asking questions about the book to ensure the child is “getting it”.
  • Interesting topics.  Kids like what they like.  Some kids love cars, trucks, boats, and planes others love princesses, worms, dinosaurs, or stories about food.  Find books that are about things that interest your child but don’t be afraid to try new ideas or story lines.  If your kid is obsessed with cars make connections between cars and other things like animals.  For example, get a book about animals and show your child that elephants move slowly like big trucks and instead of saying “beep beep” lions say “roar”.
Where to find good books?
  • Go to the Library!  Librarians offer all sorts of knowledge about new good kids books and the kids rooms at libraries around the country are really fantastic.  Also libraries and bookstores often offer story times when children can all sit together and have a story read to them. This is a great opportunity to find new books and to make new friends.
How much should you read reading?
  • There really isn’t one set answer to this question, although the Children’s Reading Foundation suggests 20 minutes a day.  Really the best answer is to try to make a routine out of reading and make sure you do it daily.  Many families like to read books as a downtime activity before a child goes to bed.  But kids often love books and reading can be sprinkled in throughout the day with other activities.  Keep books in your playroom and your children’s room at a level where your child can reach them so they can take them out as they please.  In between coloring and building a tower suggest reading a book or even bring a few books with you to the park and read when your kids need to cool down or are eating a snack.

What are some benefits of reading?

  • Positive impact on children’s language and cognitive skills (See SRCD report).
  • Reading aloud with your young children has positive effects on bonding between parent and child
  • Builds listening and attention skills


Fletcher,K. L. & Reese, E. (2004).  Picture book reading with young children: A conceptual framework. Developmental Review, 25, 64-103.

University of Michigan Health System YourChild Development & Behavior Resources.  PDF on Langauge & Literacy Development

Reading Rockets  Reading Tips for Parents.  This resource provides Tips for Parents of babies, toddlers, preschoolers, kindergarteners, and 1st- 3rd graders.

Reach Out and Read Reading Tips.  This resource offers very basic reading tips for parents.

Scholastic offers advice on picking age-appropriate books for slightly older children here.

Huffington  Post Article on Reading IS Fundamental by Christal Watts Deb 29, 2010.

National Education Association Read Across America

Parenting Magazine Building Babies First Library

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Filed under Infants, Preschoolers, Toddlers