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Reading To Your Child: Why, How, What, When? Here Are The Answers To Those Burning Questions

My mother taught me two things that have lasted throughout my life: how to play the piano and how to read. Everything of worth that I have ever done was due to these skills. When I became a mother, I taught my own children to read. It remains the act I am most proud of. There is an easy way to encourage this basic skill, and you can do it. Yes, you.

Reading is the most basic of all the life skills and, as such, ranks very high on my list of things that parents should take as a personal mission. In some cultures, mothers assume that this is one of their responsibilities, and the school system is there to supplement and support. The ability to read on grade level by third grade is considered to be very important for children's education from that point forward.

From preschool years until third grade, children are learning to read. After that, they are reading to learn. If your child can read without struggling by third grade so many other areas will be easier. You can inspire your child to read well and to love to read! It is an easy, joyful, gentle technique that will bring you and your child closer together than you know.

Beginning with your child's very earliest days, communicate freely with them. Begin early and keep the custom in place across the years. When you are bathing, feeding, walking, or driving recite nursery rhymes or sing songs. Talk to your child. Ask questions. Use rhyming words. Make up little silly things to say. Introduce your child to the gift of being able to speak to each other. Make your voice sweet to your child's ear.

But the most important thing, the single best thing you can do, the secret sauce to your child's joyful reading journey is when you pick out a beautiful book, gather your child on your lap, eliminate distractions, and read that book to your child. Read every word on every page. Turn the pages carefully and deliberately so that your child sees how books work. Run your finger under the words so that your child understands that the words have meaning and we use them to communicate.

It is your direct participation in this process that makes magic really happen. Playing audio books or watching someone on YouTube read a book is not the same thing at all. Your personal care and interest is what makes this work. Your input and enjoyment of the process will make your child want to learn to read for themselves. They don't care if other people on audio or video recordings can read...they only have eyes for you. They want to follow where you lead. So lead with love.

Here are some very important tips for helping your little one gain this essential skill without turning it into a chore or a drill. Reading is great joy to many, and you want your child to have the chance to do it naturally and comfortably.


  1. Display letters and words in your home. Label a few things in your child's room, put alphabet posters in the hall. Point them out and talk about them. The posters themselves won't help unless you communicate and use them as a teaching tool. But remember that learning and play go hand in hand. Make it fun.

  2. Point out words in your community. There are words everywhere you go! Point them out and read them. Exit signs, fast food signs, stop signs, your mailbox, push/pull door signs, the local schools and churches. Turn off the music and talk in the car. Walk and talk with your child. Language is how humans connect. Help your child be an integral part of their community by demonstrating how we use written words.

  3. Visit the library. Public libraries are, quite possibly, the greatest treasure any community has. Books, music, story time and more are all available for you to use for free. Your local children's librarian has so many resources for you and your child. They are the unsung heroes of early childhood literacy. Become comfortable in the library. Let its quiet wrap you up. Let the cheerful and helpful staff welcome you. Make use of the library. Visit often.

  4. Learn and use the "Lap Method" of reading instruction. As I made clear earlier, your participation in helping your child learn to love reading is crucial. To that end, many parents (sometimes by accident) use a method called "The Lap Method". It has been used successfully by parents for centuries. The method itself is easy enough. It consists of taking a child (your child) and putting them on your lap, getting a lovely book and reading aloud in the manner described above. The lap method is the easiest and most gentle of the literacy education methods. It is also child led learning which is the best of all ways for children to learn.

I never was able to teach my children how to play the piano, but I have not yet conceded defeat. I have grandchildren, you see.

But here is the good news: you can teach your child to read! How cool is that? And if you need more good news, it is easy. And fun. And you get more than just a child who loves reading, you get to spend time in close proximity to your child. There is no greater gift than that. Trust me.

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