North Dakota State University
NDSU Extension Service
Reading Partners: Parents and Children
Good Beginnings Never End
"Please, please, read it to me...just one more time!"
Books provide an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between you and your child.
Most children love the feeling of warmth and security that comes from snuggling up by Mom
or Dad while listening to a story. The physical contact, combined with the familiar sound
of the parent's voice and the lure of a delightful plot, makes a story special. It may
well become one of the most precious memories a child recalls long after adulthood is
Besides the pleasure you and your child experience as you cozy up with a favorite book,
reading aloud serves a practical purpose: studies indicate that children who have books
read to them at home learn to read more easily than those who don't.
A child whose day includes listening to rhythmic sounds and lively stories is more
likely to grow up loving books. And a child who loves books will want to learn to read
You can encourage your child to read without spending a lot of time or dollars. Here
are a few tips to get you started.
- Start right from the cradle! Reading aloud can help calm a fussing baby or entertain a
quiet one, and it can do wonders for you, too.
- Continue reading aloud even after your child learns to read. Young readers enjoy
listening to many books that they can't yet master on their own. If they seem frustrated
rather than challenged, put the stories aside for another day.
- Books are good, but don't forget signs, menus, mail, billboards, cereal boxes, recipes,
calendars, newspapers, magazines, labels and dozens of other everyday items. A print rich
environment is easy to offer.
- Play word games (like rhyming, describing, beginning and ending sounds, opposites) while
in the car, while cleaning, while eating.
- Write to read. Leave
-- notes("I love you!" "I like it when you..." "See you
when I get home!")
-- lists(jobs to do, shopping needs)
-- letters(thank you notes, invitations)
-- happy notes(in lunch boxes, on pillows,on the mirror).
- At family reading time, tape record favorite stories or rhymes for playback. Hearing
their own voices played back gives young children confidence and encourages them to speak.
- Be familiar with a book before you read it aloud.
- Make sure the children sit where they can see the book clearly, especially if it's a
picture book. Of course, some children just don't like to sit still and listen. Yours may
prefer to draw or play quietly while you read.
- Allow time to talk about the story. Hurrying through a story is perceived by your child
as a duty, not a gift. Prepare yourself mentally by thinking of storytime as an
opportunity to slow down, learn and share with your child.
- Read slowly and with expression.
- As you read aloud, encourage your children to get into the act. Invite them to describe
pictures, read bits of text or guess what will happen next. Dramatize the roles in the
story with them.
- Have a puppet "read aloud" from a book for achange. The puppet can also turn
- Expect a lot of questions, especially from young children. Take time to answer these as
you go along. If you must ask questions, ask open-ended, imaginative ones which spark
curiosity or wonder. Questions such as "I wonder...?" or "What might happen
if...?" are likely to trigger a lively discussion. Reading aloud is not a performance
or a lesson. It's a way for two or more people to spend time together enjoying a good
- Encourage your children to value their books. Provide a shelf, shoebox, basket or carton
with their names on it for safekeeping. Make homemade book plates for inside the books to
identify their proud owners. On small pieces of paper, children can decorate and print a
few words, such as, "This book belongs to Sue."
- Enlarge the audience with your child's favorite dolls and stuffed animals. These polite
listeners enjoy stories told by preschoolers, too.
- Be ready to listen to your child read to you. Even very small children enjoy making up
stories to go with pictures in a book.
Years from now, your children may not remember one Christmas or birthday present from
another. They will remember your shared time together. Going to the library with
your child to check out books is a good place to begin as reading partners.
The following books discuss how parents can share the pleasure of reading with their
preschool children and help their children develop strong prereading skills.
Learning all the Time: How Small Children Begin to Read, Write, Count and
Investigate the World. J. Holt. Addison-Wesley, 1989.
Beginning to Read: Thinking & Learning About Print. A Summary. M.J. Adams.
Champaign, IL, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Center for the Study of
Parents Are Teachers, Too: Enriching Your Child's First Six Years. Claudia
Jones. Williamson, 1988.
The Read Aloud Handbook. Jim Trelease. Penguin, 1989 & 1995.
Ask your local librarian for recommendations.
This newsletter is published for North Dakota families with preschoolers by the NDSU
Extension Service and distributed through your county extension office. See your extension
agent for more parenting information and other home economics programs.
Parenting Preschoolers, Issue No. 10
NDSU Extension Service, North Dakota State University of Agriculture and Applied
Science, and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Sharon D. Anderson, Director,
Fargo, North Dakota. Distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June
30, 1914. We offer our programs and facilities to all persons regardless of race, color,
national origin, religion, sex, disability, age, Vietnam era veterans status, or sexual
orientation; and are an equal opportunity employer.
This publication will be made available in alternative format for people with
disabilities upon request (701) 231-7881.
North Dakota State University
NDSU Extension Service