Tell Me a Story: Reading Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Reading to your child is among the best things parents can do! Reading and exposing children to various books and print-rich environments builds a strong foundation for life-long learning. Everything from books to posters, cereal boxes, to the Starbucks menu is an opportunity to expose your child to letters and words. Reading develops literacy and cognitive skills, empathy, social-emotional and problem-solving skills, and encourages creativity and curiosity

Expert Tips to Encourage Reading

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) says there are ten things every family can do to help their young children fall in love with reading.

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  • Read what interests your child
  • Read books that reflect your daily experiences
  • Allow your child to choose which books to read
  • Reread your child’s favorites
  • Encourage storytelling
  • Have fun while reading 
  • Read in different places
  • Choose books designed to trigger an interest in reading
  • Learn and Understand your and your child’s reading style
  • Tips for School-Aged Kids from Understood

    Have an older child who needs some reading support? Understood has some recommendations that can help! Here are a few tips to help school-age readers.

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    1. Connect what they are reading to real life.
    2. Read books over and over. Rereading the same books helps your child build speed and accuracy.
    3. Don’t make reading a punishment! Associating reading with punishment will likely push your reluctant reader away from books. 
    4. Let them choose! Let them read what they want, even comic books or sports magazines. Reading is reading!
    5. Read to each other. Take turns reading a book together. Just because your child can read doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy when you read to them. Plus, if they are a reluctant reader, it gives them a break while still enjoying the story. 
    6. Praise their effort, not their accomplishments!

    Reading to Your Child: Additional Tips to develop Literacy and Language development:

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    • Start from birth. Reading, singing, and reciting nursery rhymes are among the best ways to encourage reading and develop language skills. 
    • Expose your child to books in other languages and from other cultures.
      • Children are best primed to learn a foreign language from the start. So don’t worry if you’re not fluent in another language – check out some baby and toddler picture books and label items around the house in English and your foreign language of choice!
    • Invite a child to read with you every day.
    • When reading, point word by word as you read. This will help the child learn reading concepts like words going from left to right when reading. It will also help them understand that the words they hear have a printed form.
    • Re-enact favorite stories with puppets or act them out with costumes and props.
    • Read many stories with rhyming words and lines that repeat. Invite the child to join in on these parts—point, word by word, as they read along with you.
    • Discuss new words. For example, “This big house is called a palace. Who do you think lives in a palace?”
    • Stop and ask about the pictures and what is happening in the story.
    • Read from various children’s books, including fairy tales, songbooks, poems, and information books.
    • Make the library or bookstores a regular place you visit.
    • Let your child pick the books they want to read, even if it means reading Hop on Pop for the 1000th time. Repetitive readings of the same book teach children story and sentence structure. Children will begin to mimic or memorize lines from their favorite books and “read” the book to themselves or you!

    Read with enthusiasm!

    We know on some nights, it’s tough. Especially when you have a rambunctious toddler or you’re trying to settle down and can barely keep your eyelids open. But if you show your child that you love reading and stories, they are likelier to love reading, too. Use different voices for the characters, and include various inflections and intonations in your reading to help tell the story. It doesn’t have to be an Oscar-worthy performance to entertain your child!

    Too tired to read? Ask your child to read to you! Non-readers can look at pictures and makeup stories, an essential early literacy skill. 

    Updated August 23, 2023, by L. Elizabeth Forry

    written by

    L. Elizabeth Forry 

    L. Elizabeth Forry is an Early Childhood Educator with fifteen years of classroom teaching experience. She earned a Master of Science in Early Childhood Education from The University of North Dakota and has a Bachelor of Arts in English and one in Music from Lebanon Valley College. She has taught children in Japan, Washington D.C., Chicago, and suburban Maryland. She is trained as a reading therapist, has a TEFL certification, and has done extensive work with children regarding mental health, social-emotional development, gender development. She has written curriculum for children and educators and has led training sessions for parents and educators on various topics on early childhood development. She is the mother of two boys and resides outside of Annapolis, Maryland.

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