Bring Pictures to Life
Even as you start reading books with more detailed text, there's no reason to abandon picture books -- even those that have few or no words. Far from mere artful entertainment, these titles teach children how a story unfolds and also help them become a narrator. "Ask your child what she sees in the drawings," says Katherine Paterson, author of Bridge to Terabithia and the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. "Reading the pictures is a stepping-stone to decoding the symbols we call letters."
Linger over the pages. Don't rush through a book because it has only a few words (or, worse, because you need to check your e-mail). "Slow down, and search with your child for visual details that help tell the story," says Tad Hills, a dad of two and the author of How Rocket Learned to Read. "Encourage him to make predictions about what might happen next." This helps develop a child's intuition and his ability to communicate a story back to you. Both of these skills are crucial for learning to read words.
Less is more. Watching how his daughter gravitated toward elementary illustrations reinforced the way Krosoczka produced books. "Young kids tend to respond better to basic drawings and bold colors," he says. A recent study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology came to a similar conclusion. Among the two groups of children observed, 20-month-olds and 30- to 36-month-olds, they recalled more details when reading picture books than pop-up books. Researchers concluded that the pop-up designs and pull tags, while undeniably entertaining to young children, can be a distraction in their retaining of information.
Hold onto picture books. Many parents are quick to get rid of "babyish" titles once their child begins reading. That's a mistake, says Paterson. Kids often form a deep and lasting attachment to them. Plus, finding comfort in a familiar favorite will help them gain the confidence they'll need to get through more complicated chapter books later on.