According to the National Center for Family Literacy, children who are read to at least three times a week by a parent show a marked increase in emerging literacy skills.
Children who are regularly read to are also “more likely to recognize all letters of the alphabet than children read to less frequently. Children who were read to frequently were also more likely than those who were not to count to 20 or higher, to write their own names, and to read or pretend to read.”
As you read to your small children, keep in mind a few of the following tips:
- Track the text with your finger as you read. This teaches your child some basic skills, such as how we read left to right, top to bottom.
- When children reach preschool age, try pausing at simple words to see if they can predict what the word might be. This works especially well when they’re learning letter sounds and when the book has repetition and certain words can be predicted.
- Play rhyming games with your child, throwing out simple words and taking turns coming up with rhymes—even if the “rhyme” they come up with isn’t a real word.
- Pause periodically to ask questions that enhance understanding and comprehension, such as: What just happened? How do you think Pooh Bear [or other main character] feels? What would you do next? What do you think will happen?
- Hand a book to your child and see if they know the basic orientation. Do they hold it right side up or upside down? When asked to open it, can they find the page where the story begins (rather than the title page)?
All of these skills help to build a foundation for early childhood education and reading success. But the most important thing you can do as a parent is to read aloud to your child and read regularly.
Below are some great titles to start with for growing your personal picture book collection. They’re all delightful even for older readers (helping to alleviate the boredom Mom and Dad have with constant repetition!)
Some of the books focus on illustrations and have less text, but even those rely on a story, cause and effect, and are wonderful to “read” with children and spark conversations.
If you find an author listed below you enjoy, consider looking up more of their books. Many of the authors have a lot of great titles, but due to space, only one is listed. Consult your local library for more picture books to read with your children.
Bunny Cakes, by Rosemary Wells (and other Max & Ruby stories)
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, by Dr. Seuss
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz
Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems
Julius, the Baby of the World, by Kevin Henkes
Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
The Complete Adventures of Curious George, by H. A. Rey
Martha Speaks, by Susan Meddaugh
Tuesday, by David Wiesner
Click, Clack Moo, by Doreen Cronin
Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish
Frog and Toad, by Arnold Lobel
The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams
Hidden Treasures, by Val Chadwick Bagley (scripture series)
Once There Was a Bull . . . Frog, by Rick Walton
No, David!, by David Shannon
Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback
Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, by Verna Aardema
Arthur’s Baby, by Marc Brown
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig
The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, by Judi Barrett and Ron Barrett
The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle
Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson
Olivia, by Ian Falconer
Guess How Much I Love You?, by Sam Mcbratney and Anita Jeram
Reading to children of all ages creates family bonds and enhances a child’s education in so many ways. In talking with many educators over the years, I’ve heard time and again that the best students have parents who read to them regularly—and that includes fathers who pick up a book and read aloud.
It’s never too early or too late to begin. Reading to your child is a gift you’ll give to you both.