Nurture a love of books and help your kids do better in school by exposing them to reading at every age. With your preschooler, you may be reading chapter books to her, but when she's sounding out words on her own, go with easier material. Look for titles with short, rhyming words, such as Dr. Seuss's Hop on Pop or Green Eggs and Ham."Let her choose what she likes, so she'll be more motivated to read," says Kim Davenport, senior vice president of education and program at Jumpstart, a nonprofit early education organization. Praise even minor progress, and stop at the earliest sign of fatigue.
Don't worry if a book seems babyish. It's better for your child to stay within his comfort zone. He'll let you know when he's ready for the next level.
If your child prefers reading comic books to fairy tales, experts say that's fine. Bruce Dorries, of Staunton, Virginia, credits Pokemon cards with motivating his son to read at age 5. "Mitchell and his friends would lie on the living room floor for hours, spouting facts and poring over the tiny type, just like my brother and I used to do with baseball cards," says Dorries.
Read about plants or wildlife before going to a nature center. When you visit a science museum, pick up a book about experiments you can do at home. And if you take your kids to a historic site, see whether the gift shop has a children's title that lets them learn more about it.
Place a lamp near your child's bed, and on weekends let her stay up 15 minutes past her regular bedtime to read.
Role-play the stories you've read. Search the dress-up box for a princess gown or a policeman's uniform. Let your child practice for a while, then record her performance. Play it back for the whole family.
Have your child take photos with a sturdy digital camera. Print them out, and then see whether he can write a story to go with them. Bind the pages between a homemade cover, and add the book to your home library.
Invite some of your child's buddies over for a reading party. Plan a skit or an art activity. Read to them and let them take turns reading, then talk about the characters over pizza.
If your child gets frustrated by reading aloud, set a timer for three minutes and have her stop when it buzzes, says Pam Allyn, founder of LitLife, a literary-education organization, and author of What to Read When. Add a minute every few days as her confidence builds.
A first-grader can often understand books written on a fourth-grade level if Mom or Dad reads them to her. Just because your child starts reading by herself doesn't mean you should stop doing it together.
When selecting books to read to this age group, keep these three tips in mind:
1. Pick books with no more than five unfamiliar words per page.
2. The best books for this age group are those with recurring characters and themes, such as in series like Amelia Bedelia and Arthur.
3. Select stories with longer chapters and more challenging story lines for reading together.
Originally published in the April 2010 issue of Parents magazine.