Importance of Reading to Young Children
Reading to children helps build their vocabulary, helps them learn early literacy skills (like print concepts, letters and their sounds, etc.), and build a love for reading. Not only does reading improve your child’s academic skills, research shows that reading also strengthens children’s social and emotional development. According to this research, reading to young children is linked to decreased levels of aggression, hyperactivity, and attention problems (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2017). Aside from all the wonderful things reading to your child helps teach them, it is also a great way to spend quality time together (Van Amburg, 2021)!
Reading a Variety of Texts
The most important part of reading to your child is reading aloud every day, no matter the text. Reading a variety of books to expose your child to different vocabulary, text patterns, and themes that can be found across different texts is highly recommended.
Five Ways to Raise a Reader
- Be a role model: Children often want to do whatever they see their caregivers doing. If your children see you reading, they will want to read (Public Broadcasting Service, n.d.)!
- Read aloud every day with any book: The most important thing you can do for your baby or young child is to read aloud to them every day–any book or print!
- Follow their interests: Your child’s interest can be the hook to get them interested in reading. Do they love animals? Great! Read books all about animals. Do they seem to enjoy books with silly sounds? Wonderful! Read them books with lots of action or animal sounds. Whatever they are interested in, follow their lead and respect their preferences. It’s important to keep reading fun!
- Reading on the go: Read to your child while out and about. Read signs on the streets, read names on buildings, read labels on foods at the grocery store. All of these small things add up to build early literacy skills.
- Keep books in easy reach: Store books at your child’s level so they can easily access them in the home. Keep books in the back seat of the car, so they can look at them or read them to entertain themselves on a drive.
Favorite Books for Young Readers
Infants (Birth to 2)
When selecting books for children from birth to age 2, look for board books that can stand the wear and tear of less-than-gentle hands (and mouths!) with bright colors, patterns, simple text (repetitive or rhyming), and interactive (mirrors, textures, flaps, and folds) (Van Amburg, 2021). Here are some of my favorite books for babies:
- “Feast for Ten” by Cathryn Falwell
- “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown
- “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney
- “I Like It When” by Mary Murphy
- “Little You” by Richard Van Camp
- “Look, Look!” by Peter Linenthal
- “On The Night You Were Born” by Nancy Tillman
- “Moo Baa La La La” by Sandra Boynton
- “Ten Tiny Toes” by Caroline Jayne Church
- “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle
Toddlers (3 to 5)
Similar to infants, children ages 3 to 5 enjoy reading books with bright colors, patterns, and simple text (repetitive and rhyming). They also love interactive books! At this age, you can begin to introduce slightly longer texts and should expect your child to start attending to short picture books throughout their entirety. Remember to keep reading fun for your child and feel free to “read the pictures”. Here of my favorite books for toddlers:
- “Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle
- “Everywhere Babies” by Susan Meyers
- “In My Heart: A Book of Feelings” by Jo Witek
- “Little Blue Truck” by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
- “A Mother for Choco” by Keiko Kasza
- “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You” by Dr. Suess
- “The Old Truck” by Jeome Pumphrey
- “Press Here” by Hervé Tullet
- “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats
- “Sweetest Kulu” by Celina Kalluk and Alexandria Neonakis
Young Readers (6 to 8)
The majority of children ages 6 to 8 are beginning to read themselves. But don’t forget, shared-reading continues to be a beneficial way to spend quality time together! For this age group, you can look for longer picture books and start reading books with less pictures. Here are some of my favorite books for young readers:
- “A Different Pond” by Bao Phi
- “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey
- “Chrysanthemum” by Kevin Henkes
- “The Frog and Toad” collection by Arnold Lobel
- “The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses” by Paul Goble
- “Go, Dog. Go!” by P. D. Eastman
- “Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry
- “Real Cowboys” by Kate Hoefler
- “We are Family” by Patricia Hegarty
- “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein
Middle Readers (9 to 12)
Most children ages 9 to12 are now reading chapter books. When selecting this type of book I recommend parents read one to two chapters aloud daily. However, if your children are less interested in reading chapter books, I highly recommend picking out graphic novels or comics! Some of my favorite books for middle readers are:
- “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White
- “Because of Winn Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo
- “Dog Man” series by Dav Pilkey
- “Esperanza Rising” by Pam Muñoz Ryan
- “Matilda” & others by Roald Dahl
- “One Crazy Summer” By Rita Williams-Garcia
- A Series of Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket
- “The Giver” by Lois Lowry
- “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio
- “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster
Where to get books?
Acquiring books for some families can be challenging. Aside from purchasing new books from popular websites and stores, check out book selections available at discount stores (TJ Maxx, Homegoods, etc.), thrift stores (i.e. Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc.), or used book stores. The Chicago Public Library offers a wide variety of children’s books at each of their locations throughout the city. Finally, you can find free books at Little Free Libraries or Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (which gets shipped directly to your family!)
Kelsey Lanham, MA, DT
Therapeutic Preschool Teacher
American Academy of Pediatrics. (May 14, 2017). Reading with children starting in infancy gives lasting literacy boost. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/463661
Public Broadcasting Service. (n.d.) Helping your five-year-old become a reader. https://www.pbs.org/parents/learn-grow/age-5/literacy/reading
Van Amburg, J. (2021, October 11). Best baby books for newborns to 1-year-olds, according to parents (and babies!) who love them. What to Expect. https://www.whattoexpect.com/baby-products/nursery/best-baby-books-newborns-one-year-olds/