Entering the World of a Book Together

Tsivia Cohen, AVP of family learning at Chicago Children’s Museum, shares ideas on how to share a book with your children during the early years.


Make reading aloud a regular part of everyday life.
Reading aloud calms children. Snuggle up so they can see the pages while you read. Children will connect reading to positive, close times with you.

“My little one would just know-his body clock would tell him-when it was our read-aloud time. He’d plop himself in my lap with a book. He made sure we read everyday-no matter how busy I got.”

                                                 -Mother of a four-year-old

Choose books that children will enjoy.
Start with books that have only a few words per page. Look for bright pictures, rhymes, repetition, and a simple story. Pick books you like too. Chances are, you’ll read a book more than once.

Give it some pizzazz.
Be playful. Give the characters funny voices or make a big deal about turning the pages.

Teach while you read. Ideas to try now and then:

  • By running a finger under the text, you’ll help kids understand that you’re reading from left to right and top to bottom.
  • When children turn the pages, they’re learning how books are put together.
  • When you pause to let kids finish the rhymes with you, they’re learning about the sounds within words.
  • By asking kids to guess what the book will be about, you’re teaching them to think as they read.

Enjoy yourselves!
Sometimes adults worry that reading aloud isn’t educational enough-that we’d better ask more questions or have kids read some words themselves. None of this is wrong, but don’t let it get in the way of having fun. Seeing books as a source of pleasure will motivate kids to want to read.

Age is no limit:
Kids are never too young…”I started reading to my infant before he even knew what words were. By the time he was a toddler, he could fill in the rhymes. ëThe dish ran away with…’ ‘The ‘poon!'” -Mother of a twelve-year-old who loves to read.

Kids are never too old.
Even after kids begin to read on their own, they may still enjoy hearing books read aloud. Older children often enjoy hearing a chapter of a longer book each evening.

Supporting & Encouraging Children’s Reading: The Later Years
Let kids pick what they want to read.

  • Help kids guess what a book will offer. Show how to examine the jacket and cover. Have them open the book to three different pages to sample the text.
  • Narrow choices for some kids. If children are overwhelmed by too many choices, pull out five books you think they might like. Let them choose among these.
  • Pile them up. At the library, encourage kids to take a stack of books. If one book doesn’t work, they can go on to the next-no worse than changing the channel if you don’t like a program.
  • Series books can work wonders. Books that feature the same characters are easier to read. When kids like one book in a series, they can be pretty sure the next one will be at their level.
  • Don’t forget non-fiction. Many kids enjoy books about cars, drawing, animals, or sports. With non-fiction, it’s not necessary to read the whole book!

“Many avid adult readers started with comic books and magazines. Don’t worry too much about what your child reads now. Tastes will change many times as children grow.”

                                                                 -Reading Teacher

Listen to your child read.
Give your child a chance to show off-to read a few words or a simple book to you. Share the excitement of learning and succeeding. Build childrenís pride and confidence by focusing on what they can do.

Lighten the load.
Figuring out the words can take so much work that some kids give up or lose the sense of what they’re reading. Some ways adults can help kids with the transition to reading independently:

Tape the book or chapters.
Your child may enjoy reading along with your taped voice or reading a book or chapter after you’ve read it aloud. Give kids real and fun reasons to reread. Reading the same poem, story, or book again can help emerging readers get up to speed. Learning the verses to songs or a part in a play can build fluency.

Invite your child to read the first chapter to you.
The early pages of a book include a lot of new information and words. Afterwards let your child choose to read the rest of the book silently. Kids learn new strategies by reading to themselves.

Share the excitement.
Read the same book as your child and chat about it. By talking together, you support both your child’s understanding and word recognition.

Find times when other entertainment doesn’t compete.
Not many children-or adults-are going to read a book at Navy Pier or when their favorite show is on TV. On the other hand, having a book along can make time fly when children have to wait.

Focus on the pleasure of reading.
Rewards for reading, such as stickers and prizes, may backfire. Help kids see that reading is fun. Reading is its own reward! “The kids with the high reading scores-they’re the ones with their noses in books all the time. Enjoyment is what drives them to read. They love it!” -Primary Teacher

We all read.
Reading doesn’t have to be a solitary experience. Find times when the whole family reads-whether it’s the newspaper, magazines, or an enjoyable novel. Kids who see family members reading are likely to become lifelong readers themselves.


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