How to Read With Infants - Preschoolers

Reading with Infants and Toddlers

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Of course you will not actually be teaching your child to read, instead you will be giving him/her the tools to become a successful reader later.

By reading daily with your infant / preschooler, you will be helping him/her develop:

• A longer attention span, which is needed for learning throughout life

• A larger vocabulary which is very important for reading comprehension and other learning experiences in life

• An eagerness to read

• The ability to predict what will come next, which is important for later success in reading

• Book-handling skills

• A vast storehouse of background knowledge

• Concepts of print

• Knowledge of proper sentence structure

• A bond with you that could last a lifetime

• An attitude that reading is an important part of daily life

• Knowledge of story grammar, which helps reading comprehension

• Reading comprehension strategies

Run your finger under each word, and talk about and point to the pictures. If your child is an infant, s/he won't even notice at first, but slowly s/he will. Suddenly, one day, you will notice that s/he is watching your finger. If you continue with this at each book sharing session, you will be helping your child develop some "concepts of print" so necessary for reading success. "Concepts of print" is the first test a kindergarten teacher will give your child. By running your finger under the words, you will be demonstrating the left-to-right reading direction. You will also be showing your child the difference between words and spaces. Eventually your child will pretend to read (a good sign) and will be running his/her fingers under the words. More information about the "Concepts of Print" test.

It is a good idea to read the same book every day. Make it a simple one with repeating text and/or noises. You may read more than one, but pick one that you really like and read it daily. Before you know it, your child will be asking for that book. In no time, s/he will be turning the pages at the appropriate times, pretend reading, and correcting you if you make a mistake reading it.

Build your child's vocabulary and background knowledge. Children who enter school with strong vocabularies typically learn 8 new words per day, while children with weak vocabularies learn only 2. This continues week after week, month after month. The stronger the vocabulary, the easier it will be for your child to learn to read, and later the better s/he will be able to understand what s/he reads. Background knowledge is very important because it helps your child better understand what s/he sees, hears, or reads. Many parents don't realize this, but our brains try to attach anything new to old information already in our brains. If the new information can be attached to something old, then we can understand it. That being true, it is critical that we help our children build a vast storehouse of background knowledge upon which new information can be attached. Since I am a reading specialist, I am in a unique position to see what is in widely used elementary level books and to know what is generally taught in school. I also see the things that children typically don't know which can hamper reading comprehension. I spent over 3 years compiling lists of these things and put it in a book to help parents of young children. Parts of Everyday Things and Other Stuff Children Need to Know is a book filled with practical things you can do with your child that will build background knowledge. Click here for more information.

To maximize the effectiveness of your short reading sessions with your infant you should use voice inflections. This will hold his/her attention a little longer (maybe), but it will also slowly, over time, develop an interest and excitement in the process of reading and being read to. Remember, at this stage, you are only laying the foundation for future success in reading.

Be sure your child is comfortable. Since the primary goal in the beginning is to be sure your child associates reading with pleasure, you must first be sure s/he is comfortable, then focus on his/her reactions while you read. There are things to keep in mind before sitting down with your little bundle of joy to read a book. At first, the most important thing to keep in mind is your child's comfort. Be sure s/he isn't too hot or cold, be sure the light isn't shining in his/her eyes, be sure s/he isn't thirsty or hungry. You want your child to associate the reading experience with good feelings. You want it to be a pleasant experience for both of you. If the experience is not pleasant, you will be setting yourself up for failure. If the baby begins to fuss, stop immediately and attend to his/her needs, then try again later. s/he will let you know when s/he is ready to end the session by looking away and perhaps arching his/her back. Stop there! Fussing will follow and will weaken the positiveness of the session. Your child will not realize that you did not finish the book.

Make book-sharing a part of your daily routine from the day your child is born. If you do, your baby will believe that reading is just part of life. It will simply become part of what is done every day. Work towards 3 to 30 minutes accumulated reading time throughout the day. Remember, you are not trying to teach him/her to read, only laying the foundation for later success.

This page last updated 05/19/2020