Posts Tagged ‘ reading ’

Parenting Principle #3: Read, Read, Read

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted children? Here the focus is on the power of reading.

You know that reading to your child is important for the development of language and cognitive abilities. But there’s a lot more that happens.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has endorsed reading to babies, not just toddlers and children. Why is this is great idea?

Reading to babies is really talking to babies – and talking to babies is one of the most important things a parent can do. Talking yields much more than cognitive benefits. It’s a primary way to ensure social bonding. Reading offers the platform to express emotions which pique babies’ interest. And the act of moving your lips and conveying meaning in your eyes provides an endless stream of visual information that is fascinating to babies. So … in the first years of life reading is like dedicated talking and delivers a very rich payoff. And it’s also a way to make sure parent and baby are not preoccupied with screen time (we all get plenty of that now and reducing it here and there is a good thing).

In the toddler years, reading takes on an additional layer of importance in terms of providing a foundation for literacy. Again, the profit comes from not just reading but engaging your toddler. Interacting with them – by, for example, asking them to point to a picture, expand on an idea, answer a question, and even acting out the story – enriches the broader sense of communication skills and in fact promotes pre-reading skills.

As kids get older, and they are reading on their own, setting aside time for parents and kids to read in parallel sends the message that reading is important to you – and ensures that kids are reading. Don’t be afraid to let kids read books that interest them even if they don’t seem like they are books they “should” read. Reading is reading. Any reading is good. And parents and kids do well to read, read, read.

More in This Series

 Keep track of your child’s milestones.

Activity Tips: Anette Reads a Book
Activity Tips: Anette Reads a Book
Activity Tips: Anette Reads a Book

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Cognitive Development: 2012 In A Snapshot

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

Two areas of research caught my attention this year: 

Tips For Parents: We all know that it’s good for parents to play with their kids, and read to them. But new studies continue to point out specific methods that parents can use – like specific ways to talk to your toddler when reading to them, and ways to use your voice and fingers to promote reading skills. Other studies highlighted how basic kid activities – like drawing – are connected (in perhaps surprising ways) to later school achievement. While some of these findings may seem intuitive, parents of toddlers are flooded with all kinds of suggestions (including costly ones) on how to give their kids an academic “edge”. It’s very nice to see research demonstrate that parents can use some simple strategies that are fun (and cost nothing) which result in real promotion of their kids cognitive development – and also reinforce how beneficial it is for parents and kids to spend time together in an “old-fashioned” way.

Getting Kids Enough Play Time: In addition to parent-child interaction, kids need to play – and by play, I mean the running around kind. It’s good for their bodies, and it is directly and indirectly good for their cognitive development (both in the short and long term). Yet new studies continue to reveal that a number of barriers are reducing how much play kids get. The take-home message for parents is quite clear: make sure your kids have plenty of opportunities to play, and do what you can to ensure that this is the case in preschool and beyond.

Time For Review via

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Try This With Your Toddler: How A Particular Type Of Drawing Is Associated With Reading Achievement In Kindergarten

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Parents spend lots of time trying to ensure that their child is ready for kindergarten. Much of that effort is devoted to things we know are important – for example, reading. But it’s becoming accepted that fine motor skills are also a critical domain of development which intersects – in sometimes surprising ways – with cognitive development. And the results of an interesting study published in the journal Child Development hones in on one particular type of fine motor development – design copy or, more simply, copying shapes. 

A group of researchers recruited over 200 3- and 4-year olds. They studied the kids prior to entry to kindergarten, testing them on a number of things, including a variety of fine motor skills. They then collected data on the kids’ reading performance throughout kindergarten.

What they found was that design copy was an especially good indicator of reading skill and progress through the kindergarten year. Kids who showed higher design copy skills – being able, for example, to copy shapes like a square or a circle – had elevated scores on a number of indicators of reading achievement, including phonological awareness, decoding, and reading comprehension. This association held after accounting for a number of other factors, leading the researchers to speculate that design copy plays a unique role in the development of literacy.

All this makes sense when you think of what kids are doing in kindergarten – part of their language development is to learn how to write (copy) letters. The researchers speculated that, in part, when kids have good design copy skills, they can focus their attention more on learning the sound and meaning of words (as opposed to having to focus more on using a pencil). That said, they also suggested that there are probably unique cognitive skills that come from developing fine motor skills in general, and design copy in particular.

So, in addition to having fun reading to your toddler, spend a little time encouraging them to copy shapes. That’s fun as well – and it’s a nice way to help them learn a skill that will serve them well in kindergarten.

Image of adult and child drawing via 

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A Simple Way To Advance Your Toddler’s Reading Skills

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Learning to read in the preschool years sets up a critical foundation for later literacy and learning. While we all know that it’s important to read to our kids, research continues to identify specific ways that we read that advance reading skills in the early years. And a study recently published in Child Development provides really strong evidence that there is a simple thing you can do when you are reading to your toddler that can have a big effect on their later reading ability – simply using your voice and your fingers to draw attention to the printed page. 

Here’s what the study did. They compared (in over 80 preschools) teachers’ typical book reading style (which often involves just reading aloud) to a teaching style (“print referencing”) that emphasized getting a 4-year-old to focus directly on the printed page. Half the teachers were trained to do this both by using words (“Let’s look at the top of this page!”; “Can you find the letter K on this page?”) and by pointing (“Here’s the word ‘the’ – we are going to see it a lot in this story!”; “Here’s a capital M.”). Teachers in both conditions (the usual reading style vs. the print referencing style) were videotaped to document that they were using different styles.

The results? Over a two year period, the toddlers who were exposed to the print referencing teaching method had significantly higher reading skills, along with more advanced spelling and comprehension.

I really like studies like this because they evaluate, with rigor, things that we all do intuitively now and then – and show how we can use simple methods to not only make reading fun but also amp up the learning curve for our kids.

So when you are reading to your toddler, it’s a great idea to become more conscious of how you focus your toddler’s eyes on the page and engage them in recognizing and finding letters and words. Of course, part of the effect here comes from the very real benefit of making reading interactive (if you haven’t seen my earlier post on 3 ways of talking about stories when reading to your kids, click here). By engaging your toddler – and by bringing their eyes to the page while you bring the story to their imaginations – you can be sure that you are providing a very nice platform for later literacy skills.

Reading to kids via

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3 Ways To Talk To Your Toddler That Pay Off Academically 10 Years Later

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Of course you read and play with your toddler. But new research suggests that there are specific ways to talk to your toddler  - while reading, playing, or, well, just hanging around  - that are associated with reading and math achievement in school 10 years later (click this link for a summary of the study provided by Parents News Now). To learn more about this work, I corresponded via e-mail with Dr. Gina A. Cook, a researcher in the Department of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University. Here is Dr. Cook’s take-home message for parents based on the study: 

It’s more than just playing with our children – it’s about how we play with them. The kinds of stimulating activities that are related to later academic outcomes include those behaviors that are slightly above a child’s developmental level such as elaborating on the pictures and words in a book instead of just reading the book, asking open-ended questions, and expanding on what the child is saying or doing.

Dr. Cook provided examples of how each of these principles can be applied when reading to your toddler:

ELABORATING: When reading a book with a dog in it to a 2-3 year old child, instead of just reading the words you might want to point to a picture of the dog and talk about the dog such as what color the dog is, what sound the dog makes, that the dog is like your dog : “Look at the brown doggy, it’s a big doggy, it has spots like our doggy. What sound does the doggy make?”

ASKING OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS: When discussing the dog you could ask the child an open-ended question about what the dog is doing: “Where’s the dog going? Why do you like dogs? What did our dog do this morning?”

EXPANDING: If the child says “doggy” when you turn the page you could say – “Yes, a doggy, the doggy is brown like our doggy.”

Please note that these examples can be applied not just when reading, but also when playing, and really any time you are talking to your child (say if you are out for a walk and you see a dog). This kind of engagement in conversation with your toddler is not only fun for both of you – I would speculate that part of the effect on cognitive development comes directly from the positive affect attached to learning. And do keep in mind that a big reminder from the study is that parents should be sure to give their toddlers plenty of time for pretend play and be active participants – it’s a great opportunity to elaborate, ask open-ended questions, and expand during conversation. And you will see benefits from all this 10 years later in school.

Image of family reading via

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