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Reading Tips

Did you know there are things that you can do when reading books that would add value to your story time by targeting multiple skills while reading?! It's true!

Tips for parents: Encourage your child to read (or be read to) daily, and participate in reading with them. Be sure your child sees you reading (not just your phone or tablet!) sometimes too. Tell them about the book, magazine or article you are reading. If something we are doing reminds me of a book, I might say, “In the book I’m reading, the little girl got a new dog, and I pictured it just like this one!”.

Skills for Non-readers: This can be babies (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reading to your child every day from birth) to older children who have difficulty reading. Keep in mind, your child will not be able to master reading and comprehending what they read without these basic skills- including language abilities. Think of it as a skyscraper- your building needs a solid foundation and many levels before you get to the penthouse!

  • Repetition is the key to learning! As a parent, it's typical to have many children’s books memorized to the point that you can ‘read’ it without even looking at the book- because repetition of books is a good thing!

  • Make books fun! Find books for your child’s favorite interests, songs, lift-the-flap, pop-up, pull back books (picture above), shine a light books, or books with sounds/textures

  • Let your child hold the book and see if they can orient it right side up. Let them turn the pages - they love this!

  • Point to the words as you read- help your child learn early that words not only have meaning, but also go left to right. As your child gets older, encourage them to point to the words while your read.

  • See if your child can ‘read’ (memorize) the last word in a sentence, or even a whole book. Also have them ‘read’ (predict) by using rhyming words and/or looking at pictures- “the fat rat is wearing a….” When this skill is emerging, move your fingers from the words to point to the picture (hat) to help them learn- without actually telling them the answer.

  • Talk about pictures- “I see a big elephant, and a tall giraffe,” “where is the cow?” “Show me the blue ball,” “I wonder what he is doing,”,“Look at that funny rabbit!” “What do you think about that? I think that’s silly!” etc

  • Learn new vocabulary. When you get to a word you aren’t sure your child knows, point to the picture to show them, look around your house and see if you have that item (or a similar item) and touch it/look at it/talk about it. Do a google image search and look at the pictures. You can also try to find a YouTube video about the new word.

  • Talk and ask questions about the characters and use this vocabulary: “This character is a boy and he is planting a flower”, “This character is a dog. Dog’s don’t talk in real life, that’s funny!”, “Where is the boy going?”, “I think he is thinking about his friend, what do you think?”, “I wonder why they did that... Maybe it was because....”, “What do you think the girl will do next?”, “I think that made her feel sad...”, “How would you feel if that happened to you?”

  • Look for familiar letters while you read. “Can you find a letter K?” (it could be letters in the child's name, or family member's names.)

  • Practice phonics sounds (B says ‘buh’) as you read. “I see a dog. Dog starts with the letter D (point to the letter D or have your child find it first), what sound does D make?”

  • Have your child retell the story to you (or their teddy bear!). “What happened in the story?” Help them by providing the terms “First, next, then, and last”. You can make a book and write down what they say and have them draw a picture. Be sure to model this a LOT before you ask your child to demonstrate this skill.

  • Talk about the book when it’s finished. “What was your favorite part?”, “ What did you like?”, “What didn’t you like?”, “How do you think it should have ended or what would you change?"

  • Ask, “What was one thing you learned from this book?” This might be hard for your child, so you can model, “I learned that chickens eat grain! Did you know that?”

  • When you get a new book (go to the library!!), have your child make up a story using just the pictures before you actually read the words! You can take turns where you tell a story then they tell a story.

Other activities to promote language and literacy: (PRO TIP: Be sure you are practicing age appropriate skills. For example, 3 year olds do not need to be writing letters) - Sing the alphabet, play with letters and numbers, write letters, have your child learn the letters in their name and practice writing their name (a great way to start is for you to write their name in highlighter and have them trace!), practice understanding and learning that letters make sounds, break words apart (baseball can be base and ball, cookie can be cook and ee), count or clap out syllables in words, and practice ‘reading’ signs (stop signs, McDonald’s, food labels on their favorite food).


  • Reading and re-reading books will increase your child’s learning and understanding of concepts in the book, so still do this!

  • Take turns reading- ex. Night one mom reads, night two child reads, night three dad reads… Or even take turns from page to page.

  • Pick books that are too difficult for your child to read to themselves and read it to them (my family loves Harry Potter and we try to read a chapter each night, Magic Tree-house books are also great for emerging readers).

  • Schema- make connections by using previous knowledge. A good way to practice this is to ask your child what they know prior to reading the book. For example, if you are reading a book about a farm, your child might write or say, “Cows, pigs and horses live on farms. Farms have barns. Farms are usually in the country.” Or they can draw a farm and then talk about what they drew. When you are finished reading, you can talk about things that you learned from the book that are now a part of their growing schema.

  • Talk about the plot, characters, setting, conflict/problem, solution. Use these key vocabulary terms when discussing with your child.

  • Have your child sequence and retell the story in order (use “first, then, next, and last”).

  • Ask your child for the main idea of the story (summarize)- this can be difficult, but encourage them to provide only important details. The key to this is short and sweet!

  • Make predictions (inferencing)- “What do you think will happen next?”

  • Ask your child to explain why a character did what they did, ask “what is the character thinking?”, and if they made a mistake, what they could have done differently. What would your child do if they were in that position?

  • Compare and contrast stories- “What was the same about these two books?”, “what was different?” You can do this with characters too!

  • Distinguish between facts and opinions.

  • Use context clues to find meaning of unknown words. For example, “Sally was so cheerful. She was always smiling.” Your child doesn’t know what cheerful means, but does know what smiling means, which can help them figure out cheerful means happy.

  • Talk about the book. “What did you like?”, “What did you think was silly?”, “Would you like to do anything they did in this book?”, “Would you want a horse that did things like that?”

  • You can also have your child find the nouns, pronouns, verbs, and prepositions in the book.

  • Most of these would be great to talk about after watching movies or TV shows as well.

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