The road to reading starts in infancy, when children acquire a love of words, an excitement about storytelling, and the wonder of sharing life's experience with loved ones using words. Family members can nurture the joy of reading through activities that build these skills and interests. Here are some tips for making reading a central part of your child's life:
Talk to your baby. Use your face and voice to tell her all about the world and herself. Pick a time when she is quiet and alert, and just start talking. She knows the sound and rhythm of your voice, having listened to it before birth. Now help her connect those sounds to interaction with the world.
Echo what your baby says. Coo back to her when she makes those delicious little sounds. She's learning that sounds can make the world react and that words have power.
Become a news commentator. Narrate your day to your baby, what you are doing with her, and even what you're reading in her presence. You're making connections between words and events; you're helping her learn the elements of a story.
Label things. As you care for your baby, make a point of saying her name and naming her body parts, her clothes, and her gear. Although the connections will take weeks to months, you're building the basics of language and literacy.
Look at picture books together. Beginning when your baby is about 6 months, introduce books as fun and exciting things. Accept your child's short attention span; each brief interaction is fostering a love of books.
Don't worry about your baby eating his books. Young infants learn about their world using their hands and mouth. Use heavy board books as your child's first books. If he chews on them a bit, don't worry. He'll soon figure out that there are other more interesting things to do with them, like look at the pictures. That's the first step toward reading.
Look, point, then name. Young infants and toddlers start out their literary lives by first learning to turn the pages, then looking at the pictures generally, then looking at pictures as the images are named, then pointing at the named pictures, and finally naming the pictures themselves. Where is your child on that road? Can you prompt him to do the next step? You can't push him if he isn't ready, but you will be able to support him to move ahead if he's reached readiness.
Pack a book. Tuck a storybook or two in the diaper bag and in the car for the older infant and toddler. The habit of filling in life's spaces with books and always having them handy helps a child see them as a regular part of life.
Learn rhymes and songs. Children experiment with the sounds of language with rhyme, which builds their interest in words and sounds. Rhymes with gestures help to link actions with the action words. Poetry for children also builds this awareness and love of language.
Give books. Give every child you know a book for every occasion, and then look at it together. Keep that home library in a special but accessible place.
Tell bedtime stories. Make stories, both those read aloud and the ones you tell, part of the bedtime ritual from infancy on. Never take away the bedtime story as a punishment; it should be kept sacred.
Don't let the sun set on a book-free day. Make books part of every day with your child. Don't let a day go by without reading a book, a poem, or a story.