How to read aloud to young children

Tips for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles

The following tips were prepared by Andrea Heil, a 4C staff member with many years experience working with young children. If you like the tips below and would like to learn more, you can sign up for her online course, Reading With Young Children. The cost is only $30 and it provides valuable information about how reading to young children lays a foundation of literacy skills that lead to success in school and later life. The course also suggests the best books to read with children at different ages.

Infants (birth to 6 months)
Even when infants are wiggly, they are listening! Infants learn through their senses, so provide cloth or vinyl books and allow them to hold or chew on the books while you read aloud. Simple board books are also great for babies. In fact, some of the best books for babies have hardly any words at all!

Older Infants (6 to 12 months)
Point to the pictures in books and talk about them when reading to older infants. Board books with photos of simple objects, lift-the-flap books and touch-and-feel books are great for this age group.

Young Toddlers (12 to 24 months)
Read the words and talk about the pictures. Young toddlers love rhyming, so provide them a variety of rhyming books about children doing familiar things—like sleeping, eating, or playing—and see how their vocabularies grow!

Older Toddlers (24 to 36 months)
Make reading fun! Use funny voices and sound effects. Children love repetition so read favorite books over and over! Now is the time to add concept books (about colors or counting), books about a child’s favorite things (animals, trucks) and books that tell simple stories.

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)
By this age, children are becoming familiar with book language. Talk about a book’s cover, or make predictions about the story by asking, “What do you think will happen in this book?” Point out the author and illustrator and discuss what these words mean. When reading text, point to the words as you read and the child will begin to understand that words are read from left to right. Encourage children to act out and retell the story!