When you read to your children, you’re not just entertaining them. Reading aloud to your child is one of the most important things you can do to get them ready for school, and it’s never too early to start. Studies show that babies benefit from being read to even before they are born! 

When you read to your child they learn new vocabulary. Their comprehension skills grow. They develop fine motor skills as they learn to turn pages. Plus, your child will associate reading with your care and attention, and will think of reading as an enjoyable activity.  

One way to get your child excited about reading is to sign them up for MCPL’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten program. It’s a fun way to help prepare your child for Kindergarten. Simply track their progress online to earn rewards. For every book or poem you read (yes, repeats count!), your child can also fill in a spot on a coloring page. Bonus: coloring helps improve their pre-writing skills! Songs, fingerplays, and other reading-related activities count towards the 1000 early literacy moments, too.   

Storybooks are the most popular materials for young children, but there are other types of books to share with your children, and each has unique value. Let’s look at some tips for making reading even more beneficial and fun. 

Share books you enjoy. Your children can tell if you don’t like the book you are reading to them. Choose books that you also enjoy, so they see reading is a positive experience. When you read with expression and interest, your child will be interested too. Above all, reading with your child should be fun for both of you.  

Seek out wordless picture books to stimulate conversation. Ask your child to tell you what is happening in each picture. Give them a chance to use their imagination and their vocabulary. Ask your child to predict what they think will happen on the next page. Prediction skills are an important part of reading comprehension. If your child isn’t forming words yet, you can tell them what’s happening in the book, and point out things like colors, shapes, and objects. Ask them questions, and pause to give them time to answer, even if that answer is simply babbling.  

Read non-fiction books to your child. Informational books about true things introduce unusual vocabulary and have matching images to help your child understand the new words and make real-world connections. They can introduce unfamiliar topics, and can generate your child’s interest in exploring their world.  

Read your child fairy tales and folk tales from various cultures. Fairy tales often deal with adversity, perseverance, and self-esteem. Your child will hear about unfamiliar experiences in the story that will help them cope with similar situations they might encounter later in the real world. They will be exposed to the concepts of heroes and villains, decision making, problem solving, and conflict resolution, as well as virtues and moral values. Folk and fairy tales also expose children to different cultures and traditions, which helps children develop empathy. 

Recite nursery rhymes with your child, even if the rhymes are filled with nonsense words or old-fashioned language and phrases. These poems are structured in patterns, so they help with listening and memory skills. The rhyming words also familiarize children with “chunks” of words which they learn to recognize and apply to new vocabulary. In addition, having your child retell the rhyme to you helps them learn sequencing, since many nursery rhymes tell a mini-story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.   

Read in the language you are most comfortable speaking. If you speak a language other than English, read and speak to your child in that language, or in both languages. Exposure to more than one language at a young age actually improves a child’s language skills! In addition, bilingual children can grow up to have strong skills in decision-making, problem-solving, and prioritizing, with better focus and memory skills.  

Have lots of books around for your child to choose from and explore. Let your child participate in the decision-making process of selecting a book to read. It’s perfectly normal for a child to choose the same book over and over again, and that’s fine, because… 

It’s okay to read the same book to your child over and over and over again! In fact, we recommend it! You might find it a little boring, but your child is learning a whole new language! When you re-read a book you are strengthening synapses in the neural connections inside your child’s brain. You are also strengthening their fluency, reading comprehension, and their confidence. Basically, you are growing your child’s brain!