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Wild About Books

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Dear Elizabeth,
I have a 3-year-old son and I would love to get him interested in reading, but I'm not sure how. Do you have any suggestions?
Elizabeth O'Herron
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
Host
  • Give your child access to a variety of age-appropriate books
  • Make reading with your child a special part of each day
  • Take your child to the library
  • Share your enthusiasm for reading
Expert Advice
Deborah Dillon, Ph.D.
Deborah Dillon, Ph.D.
Mother of one
The Benefits of Reading Books
Reading to and with children is a gift of time and love that is worth every moment. Reading each day to children—several times a day for short amounts of time—allows children to see that a book contains ideas that are interesting and entertaining; children also learn that reading is a desirable activity that everyone wants to engage in.

Reading builds strong bonds between children and adults. Time with a parent or caregiver in a shared act of reading, including looking at the book together and enjoying the illustrations. This activity is important to a child’s emotional well-being and builds strong bonds between the child and adult. Sitting close together, or with your child on your lap, links reading with positive feelings and memories that will last a lifetime. We also know that children who are read to, read to their own children in the future.

Develops Children’s Literacy Skills
Children who have had many opportunities to hear stories and interact with informational books enter school better prepared for the tasks they will encounter and learning in general. First, children who have been read to have been exposed to many different topics. These reading experiences have allowed them to develop a great deal of knowledge about their world and develop vocabulary about specialized topics. Conversations with adults about ideas in books can fine-tune and develop this knowledge further.

When Should You Start Reading to a Child?
A child is never too young to read to if you are willing to expand the traditional idea about what “reading” is, and you understand that as parents we can do a great deal to prepare our children for more formal acts of reading. For example, reading to children before they are born is a way to connect with your child and to begin the process of a lifetime of sharing stories. Likewise, babies thrive on hearing adults read and show facial expressions while cuddling during read aloud time. Touching books—even chewing or taking a bath with specially made books—helps babies and toddlers develop an early love of books and reading. As children hear the language of books, they begin to explore this language themselves. These actions are all important to reading development.

Choosing a Book
Look for books at the right level of difficulty for your child. Most bookstores and school or public libraries arrange books for children based on developmental levels. There are special areas where books for babies can be found, such as books with one picture and one word—all in the baby/toddler section. In the early reader section a parent can find picture books (books with pictures and little text), beginning reader books (books with more text but with a story that is related in simple language with an easy plot structure and several pictures).

Look for books that will entertain your child. Children love stories in which they can relate to the characters (e.g., “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst) or where they see the same character/s in several books written by the same author, such as the character Max, the bunny, who is a very funny recurring figure in Rosemary Well’s books for children. There are excellent resources that help parents know about books and how to select them for children of varying ages. For example, the International Reading Association provides a “Children’s Choices” list each year in their journal, The Reading Teacher.

Adults Influence Children’s Attitudes About Books
The feeling we express about a book or type (genre) of book can have a profound effect on a child’s beliefs about reading and his/her reading habits. For example, if we state that books that relate information about the world are less interesting than stories or harder to read, children start to believe these things. Often, this results in children not being exposed to these genres of books, making them less comfortable with the language and concepts in these books in the future.

Libraries
School and public libraries are so important to families and caregivers. They provide access to books and programs about books (like read aloud sessions and special book clubs)—all free of charge!

Libraries also offer the opportunity for children to interact with other kids about reading—there are even separate book clubs just for boys and girls to focus on topics of interest to each group. Libraries also offer parents the chance to talk with other parents of children who are at about the same age. For my daughter and me, libraries are places to learn about the newest books that might excite and pique our interests as we read together and trips to the library have become another shared experience that each of us treasures.

Child Care Provider Comments
Penny Salazar
Penny Salazar
Mother of two
We have a variety of different types of books. Sometimes I’ll change the name to his to make it a little more interactive and fun for him. For example, we read Hansel & Gretel and I will use his name. When Hansel sticks his finger through the cage for the witch to feel, I will also grab onto his finger. When there is an action in the story, I will do it as well. I try to get him to learn a word a day to expand his vocabulary. We have a Webster dictionary for kids. I’ll fan through the pages and he will put his finger down. We learn the word that his finger lands on.
Marielena Rivas
Marielena Rivas
Child care provider for seven years
Reading promotes imagination, the ability to picture things in their head using imagery. They can learn to tell their own stories. They also learn to relate they story to themselves. Sometimes they can find their own comfort in doing that. Like when we read “My Very Bad Day,” the character Sam gets gum in his hair. They can relate to that. Reading also helps them to develop language and vocabulary.
Karl Morris
Karl Morris
Takes care of two neighbor children
We always have a reading time set. Normally it’s before bedtime, so I could get them settled down. They look forward to it immensely. It’s the high point of the whole night. They pick out a dozen books, and I only get through 1 or 2 before they fall asleep.

Storytelling with Props Featured Activity:
Storytelling with Props
Wild About Books Featured Video:
Wild About Books
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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