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Help your child feel the joy of connecting books and reading with her own life and interests.
 

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Literacy
Reading Comprehension

As she passes by her daughter's room, Sarah smiles. Zoe has lined up her stuffed animals on the bed, and is animatedly reading to them. Holding up her favorite book of the moment, Tawny Scrawny Lion, Zoe moves the book slowly from one side to another so the whole menagerie can see. Then she stops and asks her imaginary class, "What's your favorite part of the story?" This delightful scene reassures Sarah that her read-aloud efforts have paid off: Storybooks are becoming an integral part of Zoe's life. It’s obvious that she views books as pleasurable, rewarding, and worthy of imitation. Zoe is primed and ready to receive the myriad lessons that books have to offer.

 

Your child's early years are a time of joy and a period of great learning. She is beginning to interact with print and experience the delights of being read to. Today, a superabundance of wonderful books awaits them. But whether children benefit from this vast array of books depends entirely upon the adults in their lives. Why, how, and what you read to your child matters enormously in the role books will play in enriching their lives and later school achievement.

 

Aside from being just plain fun, reading aloud to your child prepares her to acquire a wide range of knowledge about her world and written language. She learns that words can create imaginary worlds of experience. As she listens to stories being read aloud, and discusses them with you, she acquires an understanding of narrative structure, as well as an intuitive sense of what a story is. Like Zoe, she learns that stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end — and that characters experience conflicts and resolutions just like she does.

 

Learning Life Lessons Through Stories
What to Read
The Benefits of Repetition

 

Learning Life Lessons Through Stories 
Reading books to your child is also a way of creating a sense of community. Written language provides a set of common vocabulary words and common experiences. And research suggests that when parents read to their children daily and involve them in conversations and dramatizations about books, they thrive from these reading experiences. They are also better able to comprehend and make inferences about causal relationships.

 

Introducing your child to characters in books is also one of the first — and best — ways to help him make sense of what it means to be human. Some stories help him learn empathy for others, as he considers what the main character is going through. Others provide a chance to meet people of different backgrounds and to see things from their viewpoints. And through books, your child can travel to faraway lands and learn about life in the desert or on a ship at sea.

 

Children draw important parallels from books to the events and characters in their own daily life. Books about Arthur going to the dentist or getting new eyeglasses, or Lyle Lyle Crocodile's first sleepover, help children form a real connection with story characters and their familiar activities. Often, these kinds of stories become children's favorites.

 

Books are a rich source of ideas and fantasies, which your child can use to nurture her play and inspire her own storytelling. She may pretend to read to a favorite doll, act out a scene in a favorite book, or pretend to be a teacher like Zoe did when she read her favorite book to her animals. Or you might find your child and her friends playing in the sand just like Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel. In their early explorations of reading, children try to make sense of reading, to learn about it as a process of communication, and to understand how it can help them interpret the world around them.

 

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What to Read 
When selecting books for your child, look for language and themes that are relevant to his life. Remember that the types of books you choose will help him learn different things. Therefore, children need to be exposed to wide array of language topics, types of books (or genres), and perspectives. They need to read books that reflect our multicultural world, books in which they can see themselves and others. Each genre provides a different learning opportunity. Here's a breakdown:

  • Traditional: Fables, folktales, myths, and legends often have morals that can be discussed and applied to everyday life.
  • Fantasy: Imaginative stories contain interesting characters for children to explore.
  • Information: Nonfiction books provide realistic, accurate, and authentic information about our world.
  • Poetry and rhyme: Poems, and books with silly rhymes and rhythms, encourage children to play with language.
  • Predictable: Cumulative tales, like "The House that Jack Built," and books with repetitive refrains, such as Green Eggs and Ham, help kids know what to expect.
  • Alphabet: These ABC books often link letter names to their sound.

Preschoolers particularly love nonfiction books about animals, dinosaurs, outer space, trucks, and machines — many things captivate them. They are fascinated about how the world works and can learn a lot from information books. These books often also spark special conversations and projects, such as learning about plant life, or the universe, and are ideal when focused on a particular developmental or learning milestone. And as research has clearly shown, background knowledge and experiences with these types of texts are critical to children's success in reading.

 

Beyond nonfiction, endearing characters, and interesting themes, you want to consider the language of the book. Look for:

  • Interesting language. Children are language sponges — they tend to soak up the words around them. You'll want to select books that expose your child to new words and new uses of familiar words. For example, in The Three Billy Goats Gruff, she’ll hear words such as "meadow," "trample," and "hooves," which she is not likely to encounter in everyday conversation. 
  • Rhythmic words. Children love to move their bodies, and will sway, dance, and often clap to the beat when you read books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. These stories encourage participation as your child chimes in with the repetitive phrases. 
  • Structured patterns. Predictable books, with their highly structured patterns, like Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? engage your child in anticipating and predicting what comes next. These books contain highly patterned language, repetitive phrases, and predictable plots, and are a terrific way to encourage him to participate in reading along with you, especially if he has a short attention span.

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The Benefits of Repetition 
You've probably heard that children need to try a food many times before they get used to the new flavor. The same principle applies to books. One reading is not enough. Each time you read a book, your child will attend to new information, especially if you draw her attention to certain characteristics of the book. During the first reading, she may just focus on the pictures. During another reading, she may listen to the story. Later, she may notice the rhyming pattern. On still another occasion, she may grasp the meanings of new vocabulary words. Repeated readings don't necessarily have to occur in one sitting or even in one week. You may read a book a few times in January and then pull it out again in April. Your child will know more about books and love returning to an old favorite.

 

You've probably heard that children need to try a food many times before they get used to the new flavor. The same principle applies to books. One reading is not enough. Each time you read a book, your child will attend to new information, especially if you draw her attention to certain characteristics of the book. During the first reading, she may just focus on the pictures. During another reading, she may listen to the story. Later, she may notice the rhyming pattern. On still another occasion, she may grasp the meanings of new vocabulary words. Repeated readings don't necessarily have to occur in one sitting or even in one week. You may read a book a few times in January and then pull it out again in April. Your child will know more about books and love returning to an old favorite.

 

There's really no one right way to read to your child, but the following strategies have been widely recommended to help him understand what you’re reading while you’re reading. 

  • Modeling is demonstrating by your actions. Every time you turn the page you can model how it's done. It doesn't hurt to be explicit about what you're doing: "Now I'm going to turn the page." 
  • Thinking aloud is talking about what you are thinking. This helps children to know how they should be thinking. "Wow! I notice that these words sound the same. Cat and hat sound the same at the end." 
  • Telling is giving information. "Cows usually live on farms. They don't live in the jungle." 
  • Explaining is clarifying something that might be confusing. "The caterpillar had a stomach ache because he ate a lot of food. Sometimes our tummies hurt when we eat too much." 
  • Questioning is asking questions to guide your child's thinking in order to help her to better understand. "How do you think the boy might feel when he realizes that his snowball has melted?" Questioning is useful to help develop critical thinking skills, including problem-solving and resolving conflicts.

Finally, while it's useful to have a quiet place in your home for reading, don't limit your reading to a particular time or location. Do it everywhere, all the time! Make reading a social experience. Visit the local library, and help your child register for his own library card. Libraries are truly the "gift that keeps on giving," providing children with the richness and diversity of good reading material.

 

Support reading activities and events at your child's school. You'll find that your child thrives on your support in making reading personally meaningful to her. These experiences remind us how much our children can learn when they see the rewards of reading and are motivated to become readers themselves. Use these strategies and you're sure to raise a lifelong book lover.

 

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