6 Tips to Engage Your Little Ones with Books and Encourage Early Literacy


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Dr. Seuss’s Birthday is March 2, so there’s no better time to talk about reading! I have to thank Dr. Seuss for his wonderful children’s books that have helped instill a love of reading in my son and so many other children. Dr. Seuss books make it easy to engage children in the story so they can get even more out of the reading session.

My personal favorite Dr. Seuss book, and one of my son E’s favorites, is The Places You Will Go, but his new favorite is the shortened board book version of One Fish, Two Fish. I can literally recite it to you from memory because we read it 20+ times a day throughout the week.  He likes the fish driving car picture at the end of the book and talks excessively about it. Each time we read the book, he has to stop on that page and talk to me about it. He’s passionate, so I listen. Which brings me to the first important point about reading.

Don’t just read the book; talk about what you see.

Besides reading books, we also talk about what we see. For instance, since we stop on the car page, it creates a perfect opportunity to count all the fish on the page beside it or review the colors of the fish.  We talk about how the fish is driving the car fast and getting a lot of air, and how it is able to do this because the fish is driving fast, fast, fast over mountains. I also ask him what he sees on the pages — what he likes or dislikes. In other books, I might point out how this person looks sad, or happy, or worried. Or how nice it was for the crab to help the snail. It is through these interactions that more vocabulary emerges. It’s not just about reading the book but engaging them in language and spending quality time together.

Help them follow along as you read.

Place your finger under the words and move them as you read. Children will naturally begin to do this when they first start out reading as well. Not only does this help slow down your reading, but it is also teaching them about words and what you are doing. You don’t have to do this every time, but at least with one book per reading session. 

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Re-reading the same book is actually good for their brain development and learning.

One awesome moment happened when we were reading Leslie Patricelli’s Potty book, and he opened to the page and read, “HORAAY!” Then turned the page and read, “Undies.” For a moment, I thought, So smart, he is reading already. Well, although I believe my son is smart, that wasn’t the case. He just memorized the picture and what the one word said. Yet it made me realize this is exactly how kids learn to read. If you are tired of reading the same book to your kiddo, then ask them to read to you. It may just be the best story you will hear.

Read something your child is interested in.

This is so important! Your child will learn best when they love what they are doing.  Some days I let E pick out any book he wants, and other days I will pick out one book I want to read and he picks out the rest.  

Keep them engaged.

The key to keeping kids engaged is to read to them with excitement — changing the tone of your voice and even making sounds. For instance, in some of E’s books, I have an explosion noise for a rocket ship, a fart noise, a chicken noise, and so much more. I use them at the same place each time I read the book, and I’ve noticed that these noises get him most excited about listening and reading.

For the times he’s not interested, like when he walks away and plays, I often will finish reading the book or just put it down and pick up where we left off later in the day. I also recently learned from a librarian that my son may enjoy some kids books as he gets older. For instance, my son isn’t really into the Curious George books or the Clifford series, but as I learned, the love for these books typically happens when they are a little older.

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It doesn’t have to cost anything!

Okay… it costs your time, but our children are worth it, right?! As a child, I was never a fan of the library. Maybe I could never find books I was interested in, but after I moved to the city, I learned how amazing SF libraries are. Seriously, you can order a book and even if they don’t have it at that library, they will deliver it to your local library if it’s available from another one. And you can create your order online. Now, any time I am interested in a book, I hop onto their catalog on my phone and order it for pick up at the library.  

The librarians are also SO helpful and understanding of little ones making noises. Plus, if your kid(s) get a library card, they can NEVER occur a late fee. Phew. That takes the pressure off. They also have story times at the local library for toddlers and babies. Even at our little Ingleside library, they offer Russian and Mandarin story time!  See what they offer at yours.

What’s your child’s favorite book right now?  How do you engage and encourage your child to read?



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