Learn to Read—Open a Door to the Future

Help Your Child Become a Good Reader

As a parent, you can help your child want to learn to read in a way no one else can. That desire to learn to read is a key to your child's later success.

The U.S. Department of Education has produced helps for parents to teach children to learn to read. The simple ideas that follow build skills that a baby (from birth to one year) needs to become a reader.

Learn to Read with Baby Talk

Babies love hearing your voice. "When you answer your child's sounds with sounds of your own, she learns that what she "says" has meaning and is important to you." Here are some more tips to teach your child to learn to read:

  • Activity 1

    -Talk to your baby often. Answer him coos, gurgles, and smiles. Talk, touch, and smile back. Get him to look at you.

  • Activity 2

    -Play simple talking and touching games with your baby. Ask, "Whime's your nose?" Then touch him nose and say playfully, "Thime's your nose!" Do this several times then switch to an ear or knee or tummy. Stop when she (or you) grows tired of the game.

  • Activity 3

    -Change the game by touching the nose or ear and repeating the word for it several times. Do this with objects, too. When she hears you name something over and over again, your child begins to connect the sound with what it means.

  • Activity 4

    -Do things that interest your baby. Vary your tone of voice, make funny faces, sing lullabies, and recite simple nursery rhymes. Play "peek-a-boo" and "pat-a-cake" with him. It's so important to talk to your baby! With your help, him coos and gurgles will one day give way to words.

Babies Can Learn to Read with Books

Even babies from age 6 weeks to 1 year can learn to appreciate basic concepts of reading. For example, sharing books is a way to have fun with your baby and to start him on the road to becoming a reader.

What You Need

Cardboard or cloth books with large, simple pictures of things with which babies are familiar Lift-the-flap, touch-and-feel, or peek-through play books.

What to Do

  • Read to your baby for short periods several times a day. Bedtime is always a good time, but you can read at other times as well-while you're in the park, on the bus, or even at the breakfast table (without the food!).

  • As you read, point out things in the pictures. Name them as you point to them.

  • Give your baby sturdy books to look at, touch, and hold. Allow him to peek through the holes or lift the flaps to discover surprises.

Guess what?

Your baby is learning to read! Your baby soon will recognize the faces and voices of those who care for him. As you read to your baby, he will begin to connect books with what he loves most-your voice and closeness.

Chatting with Children--A Fun Learn-to-Read Activity

As your child matures, you can instill in him skills so that he can learn to read. One excellent way is talking and having conversations with your child. These play a necessary part in helping his language skills grow.

Learning-to-Read Chats for Children Ages 1 to 6

Continue talking with your older child as you did with your baby. Talking helps him to develop language skills and lets him know that what he says is important.

What to Do

The first activities listed below work well with younger children. As your child grows older, however, the later activities will help him learn to read better. But keep doing the first ones as long as he enjoys them.

  • Activity 1

    -Talk often with your toddler. When feeding, bathing, and dressing him, ask him to name or find different objects or clothing. Point out colors, sizes, and shapes.

  • Activity 2

    -Talk with your child as you read together. Point to pictures and name what is in them. When he is ready, ask him to do the same. Ask him about his favorite parts of the story, and answer his questions about events or characters.

  • Activity 3

    -Teach your toddler to be a helper by asking him to find things. As you cook, give him pots and pans or measuring spoons to play with. Ask him what he is doing and answer his questions.

  • Activity 4

    -Whatever you do together, talk about it with your child. When you eat meals, take walks, go to the store, or visit the library, talk with him. These and other activities give the two of you a chance to ask and answer questions such as, "Which flowers are red? Which are yellow?" "What else do you see in the garden?" Challenge your child by asking questions that need more than a "yes" or "no" answer. Listen to your child's questions patiently and answer them just as patiently. If you don't know the answer to a question, have him join you as you look for the answer in a book. He will then see how important books are as sources of information.

  • Activity 5

    -Have your child tell you a story. Then ask him questions, explaining that you need to understand better.

  • Activity 6

    -When he is able, ask him to help you in the kitchen. He might set the table or decorate a batch of cookies. A first-grader may enjoy helping you follow a simple recipe. Talk about what you're fixing, what you're cooking with, what he likes to eat, and more.

  • Activity 7

    -Ask yourself if the TV is on too much. If so, turn it off and talk!

Learn to Read by Taking Charge of TV

Here is a final suggest for your helping your child to learn to read-monitor use of television.

Many children enjoy TV, and they can learn from it. Keep in mind, though, that young children often imitate what they see, good or bad. It's up to you to decide how much TV and what kinds of shows your child should watch.

  • Think about your child's age and choose the types of things that you want him to see, learn, and imitate.

  • Look for TV shows that

    • teach your child something,

    • hold his interest,

    • encourage him to listen and question,

    • help him learn more words,

    • make him feel good about himself, and

    • introduce him to new ideas and things.

  • "Sesame Street," "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," "Blue's Clues," "Between the Lions," "Reading Rainbow," "Barney & Friends," "Zoom," and "Zoboomafoo," are some shows that you may want to consider. Many other good children's programs are available on public television stations and on cable channels such as the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon.

  • Limit the time that you let your child watch TV. Too much television cuts into important activities in a child's life, such as reading, playing with friends, and talking with family members.

  • Watch TV with your child when you can. Talk with him about what you see. Answer his questions. Try to point out the things in TV programs that are like your child's everyday life.

  • When you can't watch TV with your child, spot check to see what he is watching. Ask questions after the show ends. See what excites him and what troubles him. Find out what he has learned and remembered.

  • Go to the library and find books that explore the themes of the TV shows that your child watches. Or help your child to use his drawings or pictures cut from magazines to make a book based on a TV show.

These Learn-to-Read suggestions and activities given by the Department of Education are excellent and proven idea to turn your child into a life-long reader.