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Fun and Effective Ways to Read with Children

By: Colorín Colorado (2007)

Experts believe that reading to your child every day is one of the most important things parents can do.

Here are ideas for using this reading time to build your child's literacy skills while keeping it fun for both of you. Click below for ideas if your child is:

If you are more comfortable with Spanish, then please read to your child in Spanish. This will not delay his or her learning of English.

For a list of great books to read with your child, see the Books & Authors section. It also has information on how to borrow books from the public library for free.

Reading to 0-3 year olds

Make reading a part of every day

Try to read to your child for at least 15 minutes each day. Bedtime is an especially good time to read together. You can read in Spanish or English.

Hold your child while you read

Sit with your child on your lap as you read. Let him or her hold the book and help turn the pages.

Read with fun in your voice

Use your face, body, and voice to make reading fun. Use different voices for different characters.

Know when to stop

If your child loses interest or has trouble paying attention, just put the book away for a while. A few minutes of reading is ok. Don't continue reading if your child is not enjoying it. With practice, your child will be able to sit and listen for a longer time.

Talk about the pictures

Point to the pages and talk about the pictures in the book. Ask your child to look at the pictures for clues to what the story is about.

Show your child the words

As you read the book, run your finger along the bottom of the words. Soon your child will realize it is the words that are read and not the pictures. If you're reading a book in Spanish, feel free to let your child know the English version of a word. Say something like "Perro is called dog in English."

Reading with preschoolers

Say how much you enjoy reading together

Tell your child how much you enjoy reading with him or her. Talk about "story time" as the favorite part of your day.

Surround your child with books

Try to have books in your home for your child to read. Books from a bookstore can be expensive, but there are places where you can get inexpensive books, such as second hand bookstores, garage sales, thrift shops, and library book sales. And of course, borrowing books from the library is free!

Let your child choose

Let your child pick out his or her own books. Letting your child read what interests him or her is one way that reading becomes fun.

Make reading special

Do things that will make books and reading seem special. Help your child get his or her own library card, buy books and books-on-tape as gifts, and use books as rewards.

Show your child the parts of a book

Look at the cover of the book. Talk about what the book might be about. Look at the page numbers. Tell your child who the author is and who the illustrator is.

Show how we read words on a page

Point out how we read words on a page from left to right and from top to bottom. Explain that words are separated by spaces.

Ask your child questions

Discuss what's happening in the story and point out things on the page. Ask your child questions such as: "What do you think will happen next?" or "What is this?"

Let your child ask you questions

If your child asks a question, stop and answer even if it interrupts the story. Find ways to talk about how the story relates to your child's life.

Read it again and again

Your child may want to hear a favorite story over and over. Go ahead and read the same book for the 100th time! This is beneficial for your child.

Let your child tell you the story

Many children memorize stories they've heard many times. Let your child take a turn "reading" the book to you.

Talk about punctuation

Explain that punctuation is a way to show how we talk. You can say, for example, "When we talk, we usually pause a little bit at the end of a sentence. The way we show this in writing is to use a period."

Use books on tape

If you don't know English and would like for your child to hear stories in English, you can borrow books from the library that have audiocassettes, or CDs. Your child can listen to a story being read on tape as he or she follows along in the book. Or use computer programs such as Just Grandma and Me that highlight words on the screen as a voice speaks. Children can choose to hear the story and play the games in English, French, German, or Spanish.

Reading with elementary school kids

Encourage your child to read another one

Find ways to encourage your child to keep reading. If he or she likes one book, find another book with a similar subject or by the same author. Ask a librarian or teacher for book suggestions.

Take turns reading

Once your child can read, have him or her read aloud to you every day. You can take turns – you read one page and your child the next.

Make connections to your child's life

Help your child make connections between what he or she reads in books and what happens in life. If you're reading a book about a family, for example, talk about how what happens in the story is the same or different from what happens in your family.

Give your child an incentive to read

At bedtime, encourage your child to read. Offer a choice between reading or sleeping. Most kids will choose to read, as long as you don't offer something more tempting (like TV).

Try different types of books and magazines

Encourage your child to read different types of books, articles, or stories. Some kids, especially boys, prefer nonfiction books. Others like children's magazines.

Turn on the closed captioning on your television

When watching a television show with your child, try turning on the closed captioning channel. This shows the words the characters are speaking on the television screen. Some people find it's a good way to learn English!