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Reading Tips

These tips are presented here as part of Reading Success by Fourth Grade, a community-wide initiative whose goal is for children to read proficiently by the end of third grade. Click here for Reading Tips in Spanish.

Family stories are favorites

Family stories are always favorites that can be told again and again. They build a treasured family history for your child.

These reading tips are from "Ready or Not, A Parent's Guide to School Readiness," developed by Connecticut Commission on Children.

  • Encourage your child to value books. Provide a shelf or box with your child's name on it to keep his or her books.
  • Together, make up a new story using a favorite picture in a book you have read many times.
    • Incorporate your child in the new story. Invite him or her to add to the story.
  • If you have a cassette recorder, video recorder or similar device, record a few stories and poems with your child. Hearing his or your voice is special and gives your child confidence.
Tips from PBS
  • Visit your local library often. Get your child his/her very own library card. Try a story hour or other free event at the library.
  • Read to your child every day. If you can't, ask someone else to be your child's designated reader.
  • Try to find a regular time and a quiet, comfortable place for reading together.
  • Turn off other distractions such as the radio or television.
  • Read slowly enough so your child has time to take in the story and look at the pictures.
  • Children may enjoy holding the book or turning the pages. Invite your child to point to words on the page or help you read the words. Explain unfamiliar words.
  • Read with expression. Try creating different voices for different characters.
Children outgrow everything.. but stories!

Talking to your child - from birth - gives them a world of words and ideas, for free!

  • Children outgrow everything but stories.
  • Go on long talks together.
  • Babies rejoice in the sound of your voice.
  • Talk to babies. Look how they listen.
  • Stories aren't just for bedtime.
  • Take time to talk with a child. It's more than play.
  • Every grownup is a famous storyteller.
  • Stories are more than child's play.
  • Words help them get the picture.
Ask your child to pretend to “read” you a familiar book

Is your home literacy-friendly? These suggestions are from the Home Literacy Environment Checklist, which can be found at www.getreadytoread.org. This checklist is also translated into Spanish.

  • Ask your child to pretend to "read" you a familiar book, such as "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" by Eric Carle. Have your child turn the pages appropriately.
  • Help your child create signs (such as "Please Save"), lists (such as favorite foods) and messages (such as "I love you") for specific purposes. 
  • After reading a story together, talk with your child about his or her favorite part. Share your own ideas. Encourage your child to have fun with the story by adding a new ending or creating a new character. 
  • Play word games, such as "I Spy."
  • Sing songs, such as "The Alphabet Song" or "Itsy Bitsy Spider."
Set a place for reading

These suggestions are from the Home Literacy Environment Checklist, which can be found at www.getreadytoread.org. This checklist is also translated into Spanish.

  • Set up a quiet and comfortable place for you and your child to read.
  • Put the books in a special place that your child can access whenever he or she wants.
  • Ask questions to learn more about your child's thinking: How do you know? What do you notice? Why did you do it this way?
  • Create routines, such as a set bedtime and wake-up time and stick to them! 
  • Routines help children feel safe and know what to expect.
  • Read with your child every day. Let you child choose stories to read together.
  • Make this part of a daily routine, such as just before bedtime or right after a meal.
  • Ask your child "What does that mean?" when hearing a new word.
  • Take turns in an extended conversation with your child about one topic.
  • Your child should learn to recognize print in his or her daily life. For example, recognize familiar signs in the neighborhood or labels of favorite foods at the supermarket.
  • Ask your child to retell a story after you have read it together a number of times. 
  • Point out the association between letters and the beginning sounds of his or her own name. "M is the beginning of your name, Mary or Michael."
  • Ask your child to draw a picture and tell a story about it

 

Your child should have at least one alphabet book

Is your home literacy-friendly? These suggestions are from the Home Literacy Environment Checklist, which can be found at www.getreadytoread.org. This checklist is also translated into Spanish.

  • Your child should have at least one alphabet book, for example, "Dr. Seuss's ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book."
  • Your child should have magnetized alphabet letters to play with.
  • Your child should have crayons and pencils readily available for writing and drawing.
  • Your child should have a table or surface readily available for writing or drawing.
  • Your child should have at least one rhyme book, for example Joseph Slate's "Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten." Or "Llama Llama Red Pajama" by Anna Dewdney.
Is your home literacy-friendly?

Is your home literacy-friendly? These suggestions are from the Home Literacy Environment Checklist, which can be found at www.getreadytoread.org. This checklist is also translated into Spanish.

  • Your child should have more than one rhyme book.
  • Your child should have at least 10 picture books.
  • Your child plays reading and alphabet games on a computer, for example, "Reader Rabbit" or "Bailey's Book House."
  • You or another adult in your house should read a picture book with your child at least four times a week.
  • You or another adult in your house should teach new words to your child nearly every day.
  • You or another adult in your house should have a detailed and informative conversation with your child nearly every day, for example "How do you think ice cream is made?"
Get creative with reading

These reading tips are from ReadingRockets.org

  • Take turns adding to a story the two of you make up while riding in a car or bus. Try making the the story funny or spooky.
  • Make books special. Turn reading into something special. Take your kids to the library, help them get their own library card, read with them, and buy books as gifts.
  • Have a favorite place for books in your home, or even better, put books everywhere.
  • Find ways to encourage your child to pick up another book. Introduce him or her to a series like "The Boxcar Children" or "The Magic Tree House" or to a second book by a favorite author or ask the librarian for additional suggestions.
  • Let your child see you use a dictionary. Say, "Hmmm, I'm not sure what that word means - I think I'll look it up."
  • Read different types of books to expose your child to different types of writing. Some kids, especially boys, prefer nonfiction books.
  • Use the time in the car or on the bus for wordplay. Talk about how jam means something you put on toast as well as cars stuck in traffic.
You are your child's role model

These reading tips are from ReadingRockets.org.

  • Read a book at the same time as your child. You are your child's role model.
  • Tell family tales. Children love to hear stories about their families. Talk about a funny thing that happened when you were young.
  • Create a writing toolbox. Fill a box with drawing and writing materials. Find opportunities for your child to write, such as the shopping list, thank you notes, or birthday cards.
  • Be your child's No. 1 fan. Ask your child to read aloud what he or she has written for school. Be an enthusiastic listener.
  • Create a book together. Fold pieces of paper in half and staple them to make a book. Ask your child to write sentences on each page and add his or her own illustration.
  • Take turns adding to a story the two of you make up while riding in a car or bus. Try making the the story funny or spooky.
  • Make books special. Turn reading into something special. Take your kids to the library, help them get their own library card, read with them, and buy books as gifts.
  • Have a favorite place for books in your home, or even better, put books everywhere.
Always try to fit in reading!

These reading tips are from ReadingRockets.org.

  • Trace and say letters. Have your child use a finger to trace a letter while saying the letter's sound. Do this on paper, in sand, or on a plate of sugar.
  • Write it down. Have paper and pencils available for your child to use for writing. Working together, write a sentence or two about something special. Encourage your child to use the letters and sounds he or she is learning about in school.
  • Talk about letters and sounds. Help your child learn the names of the letters and the sounds the letters make. Turn it into a game! "I'm thinking of a letter and it makes the sound mmmmmm."
  • Bring along a book or magazine any time your child has to wait, such as at a doctor's office. Always try to fit in reading!
  • Take turns reading aloud at bedtime. Kids enjoy this special time with their parents.
  • Take control of the television. It's difficult for reading to compete with TV and video games. Encourage reading as a free-time activity.
Be interactive

These reading tips are from ReadingRockets.org.

  • Point out print everywhere. Talk about the written words you see in the world around you. Ask your child to find a new word on each outing.
  • Be interactive. Discuss what's happening in the book, point out things on the page and ask questions.
  • Know when to stop. Put the book away for a while if your child loses interest or is having trouble paying attention.
  • Say silly tongue twisters. Sing songs and read rhyming books. These help kids become sensitive to the sounds in words.
  • Talk to your child. Ask your child to talk about his or her day at school or preschool.
  • Use your child's name. Point out the link between letters and sounds. Say, "John, the word 'jump' begins with the same sound as your name. And they both begin with the same letter, 'J'."
Build positive experiences with books

These reading tips are from ReadingRockets.org.

  • Choose books about everyday experiences and feelings. Your child will identify with the characters as they dress, eat, visit, nap and play.
  • If your child isn't having fun, then try a different story or a different time during the day. Reading with a very young child is primarily about building positive experiences with books, not finishing every book you start.
  • Read together every day. Make this a warm and loving time when the two of you can cuddle close.
  • Say how much YOU enjoy reading. Tell your child how much you enjoy reading with him or her. Talk about "story time" as the favorite part of your day.
  • Read it again and again. Go ahead and read your child's favorite book for the 100th time!
Encourage conversation!

These reading tips are from "Ready or Not, A Parent's Guide to School Readiness," developed by Connecticut Commission on Children.

  • Try to set aside a period of time to listen and talk with your children where no interruptions will be allowed. Show pleasure in being with your child. Children take great pride in making their parents smile and laugh.
  • Instead of reading straight through a book, stop and ask your child what he or she sees on the page. Ask your child to identify pictures or repeat words after you. Encourage conversation.
  • Invite your child to be in charge of a story. Ask your child to "read" a wordless book to you.
  • Enlarge the audience by including your child's stuffed animals. These polite listeners enjoy stories read to them by your child, too.
Introduce foundations of reading at an early age

These reading tips are from "Ready or Not, A Parent's Guide to School Readiness," developed by the Connecticut Commission on Children.

  • Babies use sounds like "Ma," "Da" and "Ba." 
Encourage your baby to make these sound combinations by repeating the sounds, responding with different patterns and with words. Imitate your baby's laughter and facial expressions.
  • Talk to your child — of any age — about what you are doing and what you see. Identify colors, count things around you, name people you know and introduce animal sounds.
  • While grocery shopping, discuss what you will buy, how many you need and what it will cost.
  • Discuss the size, shape and weight of the packages.
  • When your child starts a conversation, try to give him or her your full attention.
Keep reading short, simple, and often

These reading tips are from ReadingRockets.org.

  • Don't expect your toddler to sit still for a book. Toddlers need to MOVE, so don't worry if they act out stories or just skip, romp or tumble as you read to them. They may be moving, but they are listening.
  • Recite rhymes, sing songs, and make mistakes! Pause to let your toddler finish a phrase or chant a refrain. Once your toddler is familiar with the rhyme or pattern, make mistakes on purpose to get caught.
  • Keep reading short, simple and often. Toddlers frequently have shorter attention spans than babies. Look for text that is short and simple. Read a little bit, several times a day.
  • Build your child's vocabulary by talking about interesting words and objects. For example, "Look at that airplane. Those are the wings of a plane. Why do you think they are called wings?"
Show interest in what your child says
  • From birth to 18 months, your baby uses voice to express feelings, laughing and crying.
  • From birth to 18 months, your baby imitates speech by saying things like "na-na, da-da."
  • From birth to 18 months, your baby understands several simple phrases.
  • Listen to your child talk and encourage your child to say more.
 Ask questions, show interest in what your child says, and help your child learn new words and ideas.
  • When you are with your child, limit distractions like phone calls and television. Instead, talk, read and play together.
  • Consider borrowing books from the library to read with your child.
At 3 years, your child can say 800 to 1,000 words
  • Make books a part of the daily routine.

 Special reading time might be before bed, during a meal or while you are riding the bus.
  • Give your child paper and crayons so he or she can "write." 

Ask your child to explain what is happening in his or her picture or story. 
Help your child think of more ideas to add.
  • At 2 years, your child can say 250 to 300 words.

At 3 years, your child can say 800 to 1,000 words.
  • Your toddler enjoys listening to predictable, familiar books and joins in when it is time to say a repeated phrase in the story.
  • Your 3- to 5-year-old toddler comfortably uses sentences, plays with words and learns from conversations and books that are read aloud.
  • Your 3- to 5-year-old toddler recognizes familiar letters and words such as his or her name and attempts to write them.
  • Your 3- to 5-year-old toddler identifies words that rhyme or have the same beginning sound.
Make everyday activities learning opportunities
  • When you are waiting in line at a store, make the time a learning opportunity. 
Point to items around you that match the color of clothing your child is wearing. 
Count the number of people in line.
  • Bath time is the perfect time to review body parts. 
Ask: "Can you wash your neck?" 
"Can you show me your elbow?" 
"Can you wiggle your toes?" 
Point to your eyelid and then blink three times.
  • At the dinner table, ask your child to tell you the funniest thing that happened today.
  • In the bathtub, talk about things in the tub and whether they will SINK or FLOAT. 
"Will the soap float or sink?" 
"Will the rubber duck float or sink?"
Ask questions, and be observant
  • Sing a favorite song as you head out to walk to school or take the bus to school. 
"The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round" has lots of good words. 
Ask: "What shape are the wheels on the bus?"
  • When you are walking in the neighborhood, talk about the people you see and the jobs they do. 
Point out the policeman and talk about his job. 
Point out the firefighter and talk about what he or she does.
  • When you are going to the grocery store, talk about what is on your grocery list and ask your child to help find some things on the list. 
For instance, "We need to buy green beans. Green beans are a vegetable. Some other vegetables we might buy are carrots and celery. What vegetable would you like to buy?"
  • When you are walking to do an errand, ask your child to play a game. 
You say: "Walk with baby steps." 
Next you say: "Walk with giant steps." 
Then you say: "Walk backwards."
The most important 20 minutes of the day...
  • Talking to your child from birth gives them a world of words and ideas, for free!
  • Talk about the day's plans: 
"What will we do today?" 
"What will we do first?" 
"What do you think will happen when we go for a walk today?"
  • Create opportunities for your child to story-tell about their lives. 
"Tell me a story about when you went out to play today."
  • Ask your child to figure out which clothes go on where and in what order. 
Ask: "Which goes on first - your socks or your shoes?" 
Be silly, if you like! 
Say: "Does your shirt go on your foot?"
  • At the breakfast table, ask your child where the food comes from. 
Ask: "Who grows our food?" 
Ask: "What drink comes from a cow?" 
Ask: "What food do chickens lay?"
  • The best tip: Take time every day to read to your child or tell your child a story in your native language. It will be the most important 20 minutes a day that you give to your child!
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