This post is about the skills and tools needed to build strong reading habits from an early age.
For most of the world, reading is a fundamental part of the human experience.
Raising readers doesn’t have to be difficult – but it takes time and dedication to establish good reading habits early so your child has a varied and enjoyable introduction to reading.
Picture books allow your child to explore the complexities of the world around them in a way that makes sense – through story and image.
Introducing books from birth helps children build foundational skills that will serve them well for the rest of their life.
As a mama and published author of a picture book, Stella, I have read countless books in all genres for children.
Although I was unsure how to begin reading with my daughter, once I got started I realized just how simple it is to connect and grow with her through reading!
Why reading with your child is so important
1. Encourages language development
Did you know that babies can hear your voice as early as 18 weeks gestation? This means you can begin reading to your little one even before birth!
Children who are read to starting in infancy enter Kindergarten knowing close to a million more words than children who are not. That’s a lot of words!
Quick Tip: To learn more about reading with your baby, check out this article from Parents magazine.
2. Improves concentration
The task of listening to the words, absorbing the images and turning the pages are all part of developing concentration for little readers. Infant may not be able to interact with books immediately, but they can listen and absorb what’s being said.
3. Encourages social emotional development
By putting names and images to feelings, stories allow children to explore complex emotions they may not fully understand. This is crucial for building a foundation of empathy, kindness, and emotional regulation as they grow.
4. Prepares your child for new life experiences
Is your family moving? Starting school soon? There’s a book for that! Storytelling is a great way to visually and verbally prepare children for new experiences. Discussing what to expect can lower anxiety and make children feel more in control.
5. Stimulates your child’s imagination
Reading opens doorways to new worlds and allow you and your child to imagine all sorts of people, places and things that you may never actually experience in real life. As children age, reading is one way they cement their understanding of reality from fiction.
6. Creates a lasting bond between you and your child
Snuggling up with some books is a fantastic way to connect with your child emotionally, cognitively, and physically! Both parents and children benefit from this intentional shared activity.
How to get started reading with your child
Now you know the many benefits of reading with your child, where do you start? By getting some books, of course!
Here are a few tips to get you started on creating your own reading-friendly home.
1. Visit your local library!
Picture books are not cheap, and the most cost effective way to update your collection is by checking books out at your local library. This keeps fresh options available for your child and you can also practice taking care of objects that belong to someone else, a skill that will serve kids for a lifetime.
When at the library, encourage your kids to choose books that look interesting to them, as well as adding a few choices of your own. If they see you engaging in the activity of choosing what to read, it will demonstrate that you care about doing this alongside them.
2. Make books accessible
To encourage littles to read on their own, store books on the lowest shelf or in a basket for easy access.
It is also encouraged to have books in several places in the house (bedroom, playroom, living room) so they are a regular part of your child’s play.
3. Allow for variety
When building your book collection, include titles with various topics and types of illustrations for maximum exploration. Most children do develop a favorite genre over time, so keep introducing new titles!
Be sure books are age-appropriate (i.e. board books vs hardcover with jacket) so interaction is safe and worry-free.
4. Make reading a priority
Many parents include reading as part of their child’s bedtime routine. This is a great way to wind down for the night and get in some snuggles. Over time, children will anticipate this activity and look forward to the bonding moment.
5. Ask Questions
Asking questions about what you are reading helps children stay engaged and improves comprehension. The key is to get them thinking beyond just the words on the page.
I like to sprinkle questions throughout, not following any particular pattern (i.e. before or after reading the page). Do what comes naturally.
Tips for successfully raising readers
Repetition – read often. Practice makes a habit!
Flexibility – your child may want to read the same book multiple times or not make it through a full book at all. Treat each interaction as a win and stay patient as you grow together in this activity.
Encouragement – All children start out with an interest in books, but not all will be easily engaged as they grow. Model reading to your children and encourage them to look at books on their own even if you can’t always read to them.
Commitment – Stay devoted to the goal of making reading a priority from birth and soon it will become an activity your whole family can enjoy together.
Quick Tip: Whether you read a set number of books each night or mix things up, it is important to never use the loss of reading time as a discipline tool if your child is dragging their feet at bedtime. This creates a negative association between reading and uncooperative behavior.
Raising readers doesn’t have to be complicated!
This guide introduced you to the basics of reading with your child and why it is such an important life skill.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I promise this will get easier!
Reading doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and that’s ok! Choosing to make reading a priority is worth the investment and will benefit your family for years to come.
As you build your confidence in reading with your child, I encourage you to practice going beyond the book by bringing what you read to life. Besides book recommendations, Book Mama Life has many crafts, activities, and additional guides to keep the conversation going.
The greatest thing about reading is you can tailor your process, book choices, and whatever else you need to make it work well for your family. Start with just one book a day and see where the magic takes you!
If you remember anything from this guide it’s this – start early. Read often. Make it fun!
Just one book a day positively impacts your child’s literacy skills for a lifetime.