Parents MY CHILD'S ACADEMIC SUCCESS
Introduction -- Helping Your Child Become a Reader

You could say that your baby starts on the road to becoming a reader on the day she [ *** ] is born and first hears the sounds of your voice. Every time you speak to her, sing to her, and respond to the sounds that she makes, you strengthen your child's understanding of language. With you to guide her, she is well on her way to becoming a reader.

To understand the connection between a child's early experiences with spoken language and learning to read, you might think of language as a four-legged stool. The four legs are talking, listening, reading, and writing. All four legs are important; each leg helps to support and balance the others.

This booklet gives you information about how you can use your language skills to build your child's skills. It offers suggestions about how you can:

  • Talk with and listen to your child.
  • Read together with her.
  • Help your child learn about books and print.
  • Encourage your child's early writing efforts.
  • Help your child learn to read if his first language is not English.
  • Prepare your child for success in school.

The major portion of the booklet contains activities that you can use with your child to strengthen her language skills and encourage her love of reading. However, these activities are only a starting point. We hope that you and your child will enjoy them enough to create and try many more on your own. As a parent, you are your child's first and most important teacher. You don't need to be the best reader to help—your time and interest and the pleasure that you share with your child as part of reading together are what counts. If you would like more information about helping your child with reading, this booklet also provides lists of books and Web sites and the names of groups that you can contact.

We all know that older children can do things that younger ones can't. This is true for reading, too. To help show when children can take certain learning steps, this booklet ties the discussion and activities to four age groups:

"As parents, the most important thing we can do is read to our children early and often. Reading is the path to success in school and life. When children learn to love books, they learn to love learning."
—Laura Bush

Baby = birth to 1 year
Toddler = 1 to 3 years
Preschooler = ages 3 and 4
Kindergartner/early first-grader = ages 5 and 6

Keep in mind, however, that children don't all learn at the same pace. And even though they learn new things, they may have "old favorites"—books and activities from earlier years—that they still enjoy. You are the best person to decide which activities will work best for your child.

Children become readers step by step. By age 7, most children are reading. Some take longer than others, and some need extra help. When children receive the right kind of help in their early years, reading difficulties that can arise later in their lives can be prevented. This booklet offers steps that you can take to start your child on the way to becoming a successful reader. It is an adventure that you will not want to miss, and the benefits for your child will last a lifetime.

***Please note: In this booklet, we refer to a child as "him" in some places and "her" in others. We do this to make the booklet easier to read. Please understand, however, that every point that we make is the same for girls and boys. [ Return to text ]

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Last Modified: 09/01/2003