Parent’s Guide to Reading With Your Child

By Sharon Darling, founder and president of the National Center for Family Literacy

Sharon Darling Question: How can I encourage my child to want to read?

Answer: Read together. As you discover adventures between the covers of a book, you will also discover things about each other. And with every page that you turn, your child expands vocabulary, comprehension, reasoning, grammar, and other skills. Here are 10 tips sure to help you bring up a booklover:

1. Create Reading Rituals
Read together every day, starting when your child is a baby. Set aside a special time and place to read together. Let your child know that reading is important and that he can expect to enjoy this time and place with you on a regular basis.

2. Get Close
When you cuddle with your child while reading a story, he or she will begin to associate reading with a sense of security. Children learn better when they feel safe.

3. Provide Sound Effects
Use silly voices and sounds to keep your child interested in the story. Hearing different sounds also helps your child develop critical listening skills. Try singing, too!

4. Make Connections (1)
Help your child connect the words you are reading and the words he is hearing. Follow along with your finger as you read to show how print moves from left to right. Point out the pictures in the book and talk about what you see.

5. Make Connections (2)
We’re surrounded by letters and words. Children need experience with all kinds of print — from shopping lists to the Internet to street signs. Point out letters and words around you. Connect the letter symbol to the name of the letter.

6. Talk About It
When reading or telling a story, pause to talk to your child about it. Ask open-ended questions, like "What do you think will happen next?" or "What would you do?" Put things in your own words to help make the story clearer.

7. Read It Again
Children need to hear favorite stories over and over. This helps them recognize and remember words. It also helps them learn how to predict what’s coming next. Most importantly, as children become familiar with a story, they gain confidence about reading and improve their comprehension and background knowledge.

8. Keep It Active
Let your child touch and hold the book. Ask her to help you turn the pages. And you don’t always have to sit when you read or listen to a story. Try clapping out a fun rhyme or dancing to a silly poem.

9. Be Creative
Too tired to hold a book? Tell a story that you know, or make one up together. Making up a story with your child stimulates creativity. It’s also a nice change.

10. Follow Your Child’s Pace
Don’t push your child to read beyond her ability. Choose books suited to her age and development, and let her choose books that she finds interesting. Encourage your child to read, and congratulate her when she learns a new word or masters a new skill.

Written by the National Center for Family Literacy

About Our Guest Columnist: 
Do you have a question about reading and literacy? Just Ask Sharon. Sharon Darling is the founder and president of the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), the worldwide leader in family literacy. A leading force for literacy and reading, Darling serves on the boards of numerous national and international organizations. Among her many honors are the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, Johns Hopkins University (1998), and the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Education (1996). More than one million families have made positive educational and economic gains as a result of NCFL’s work, which includes training for more than 150,000 teachers and thousands of volunteers. For more information about Sharon and the National Center for Family Literacy, please visit
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