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Reading to your child

Dean M. Clifford, PhD.

Did you know that reading to your child is the best single thing you can do to prepare him or her to learn? Reading aloud together is not only an easy and enjoyable activity – but more importantly, "booksharing" teaches a child essential skills.

  • language skills : for success in school and in one’s ability to communicate effectively
  • thinking skills : for educational success and in decision making
  • listening skills : for learning in the class- room and getting along with others
  • imagination and creativity : books are exciting and thought-provoking . . . and books are not limited to what can "really" happen!

Children learn through picture books!

  • About the world around them: creating and reinforcing real life awareness
  • About people: introducing cultures and lives different from their own
  • About their own feelings and experiences: helping them process, accept and learn about life.
  • About the feelings and experiences of others: helping them get along with other people.

Young children learn best from repetition. Read the same books to them over and over. Select books with these ingredients:

  • Stories that are fun, interesting and enjoyable – to encourage the love of reading
  • Language that is rich and varied – children love rhythm and colourful language, but not too many words
  • Simple stories without sub-plots
  • Subjects a child can relate to and understand
  • Cultural diversity
  • Illustrations
    • Colourful, not too busy
    • Easy to see
    • Interesting, but not too cartoonish
    • Varied in style from book to book
    • Pictures that match the text; the child can "read" along with the adult.

Book needs for different ages:

Infants, toddlers and two-year-olds

  • Strong, simple, short text
  • Action, but not necessarily a plot or "story"
  • Simple colourful illustrations
  • Simple concepts, such as numbers, letters, days of week
  • Simple manipulations, such as lifting flaps
  • Sturdy books they can pull on and chew on.


  • Definite plot and ending
  • Increased vocabulary, rhythm and rhyme
  • Participatory stories and songs
  • Stories about self-esteem
  • Stories personifying animals and toys

Four and five-year olds

  • Stories about the world
  • Longer books, folk-tales
  • Adventure and suspense
  • Advanced sense of humour
  • More abstract ideas.

– Dean M. Clifford, PhD .

Reproduced with the permission of www.zerotofive.org