Reading to Children: Why It’s So Important and How to Start

Excerpts taken from

Experts recommend engaging in literacy activities (like reading) for around 30 minutes per day. But you can also think outside the book here. Try reading traffic signs or cereal boxes, singing songs, listening to audiobooks together, or having your child read to you to the best of their ability. It’s all good.

Reading to your child

As your child begins reading on their own, you might involve them in the process of reading together by asking them to read words or sentences out loud along the way. This is great practice.

Younger kids (and even some older ones) may still appreciate pictures with little text. That said, you can start introducing stories that have more complex plots in them and books with more words than pictures — even chapter books.

Ask questions — you don’t have to wait until the end of the book or chapter to check your child’s comprehension. Try open-ended questions like “What do you think might happen next?” These will help your child delve deeper, rather than surface questions like “What color is the house?”

Reading to your older child

Librarian Donna Jeansonne says that you shouldn’t stop reading to your child once they learn to read themselves. While independent reading is certainly important, reading out loud to kids as old as age 14 still holds benefits, both academically and emotionally.

At this age, it’s about your older child’s reading fluency and comprehension. It may be helpful for them to follow along in the book as you read. And consider asking questions about the text to gauge their comprehension.

Tips for reading to children

Again, all you really need to do is take the time to read to your child. It’s truly as simple as that. However, you might be wondering how to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Here are some tips:

  • Be consistent. Whether it’s one book per day or more, try to make reading a part of your regular routine. And while you’re at it, you don’t have to read different books each time you sit down. Kids love hearing the same stories over and over again — and they learn through this type of repetition.
  • Take your time. Be sure to leave enough time to read versus sneaking it in or — worse — making it a chore. Of course, you won’t have loads of time each day to read, so some quickies are just fine. However, your child should see reading as a dedicated activity and one that you give your full attention to.
  • Make it fun. Use different voices for characters, pauses, songs, or other dramatics to make the story come to life. Reading with flair will help your child better understand the story. It also provides a good model of expressive and fluent reading for kids who have begun reading by themselves.
  • Point out connections. Children love applying stories to their own lives. It not only makes the text more meaningful, but it also may help your child cope with different situations they encounter in their everyday experience. Point out those connections to your child. Note where the character was brave about that monster beneath their bed.
  • Don’t stop with books. Any exchange of words is beneficial to kids. So, if you’re uninspired by books one night, turn to telling stories. You can also look at pictures and talk about what you see or ask your child to be the storyteller. Anything that gets language flowing between you and your child is golden.

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