It is a well-known fact that a child starts learning from the day it is born.1 From the time they’re born until age 5, a child learns at a speed that is unmatched for the rest of their life! What you, as a parent, do during that critical developmental time period to help your child learn will set him up for even more success later in life. And one of the most beneficial ways you can help your child learn is to read to them daily.
Why It’s Important to Read Aloud to Young Children
Even as an infant, a child will learn by looking at pictures in a book. They learn language and vocabulary from listening to and how you say words. Although parents will naturally build their child’s vocabulary by talking to them, studies show that reading to children is much more effective.2 One study found that young children whose parents read five books a day to them enter kindergarten having heard about 1.4 million more words than those who were never read to!3 Of course, parents can expect that reading to their children will help their children learn and set them up educationally in the future. Studies are also finding that reading to your kids has a significant (and positive) impact on their behavior.4 And what parent doesn’t want a better-behaved child?
How to Start Reading Aloud to Your Child
Incorporating daily book reading with your child doesn’t need to take a ton of time or effort. You can add it to your nightly bedtime routine or mid-day lunch break. Here are some tips for starting the habit of reading aloud to your child:
Let your child pick the book. This will allow them to be an active participant in the process. Display a few books on shelves with the covers facing forward (instead of the spines). Kids will be more attracted to choosing a book if they can see what it offers from the cover.
Words aren’t essential. If your child is too young to choose a book, words won’t necessarily matter. Wordless picture books are a great way to engage the child visually while you point out colors or shapes or even make up your own story. Even as kids get older, wordless picture books are an excellent way to engage the young imagination by asking things like, “What do you think is happening here?” “Why do you think the boy did that?” “What do you think will happen next?”
Start with short books. Until you get a feel for your child’s attention span limits, choose short and sweet books. If your child wants to read another, go for it! But if they start getting fidgety or losing focus, end your reading on a positive note, and don’t try to force more than they can consume in one sitting.
Don’t be afraid to get into character. If you’re reading a book with dialog, give each character their own voice. Make it silly and fun! When you come across sounds like “BOOM!” or “ZOOM!” match your voice to the action. Kids get a kick out of hearing their parents get into the story, which engages their interest even further.
Don’t’ stop reading as they get older. Just because your child may be able to read on their own doesn’t mean you should stop reading aloud! Kids often hear on a higher level than they can read. Continue to read aloud for as long as possible.
Explain new words. When you come across a word you think your child may not quite understand, stop and ask if they know what it means. Often, they won’t, which is a great way to add one more word to their vocabulary.
20 Books to Read Aloud to Your Kids
Now that you know the “why” and “how,” here are some suggestions for the best books to read aloud to your kids:
Books for Babies
Look Look! by Peter Linenthal
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr. and Eric Carle
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
Books for Kids Ages 2-4
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr.
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
Books for Kids Ages 5-7
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry G. Allard, Jr.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
The Magic Treehouse Series by Mary Pope Osborne
Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems
My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook
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