Reading and Your Child – Start Early, Encourage Gently, and Create a Life-Long Reader

By | May 12, 2009

Most people know by now that a child’s education begins long before kindergarten or pre-school. Children can learn through play and interaction with others long before formal schooling begins. Science has indicated that learning starts even before birth.

Exposing your child to reading is the easiest way to encourage the enjoyment of it. This ideally should begin whilst they are still in the womb. You’ve probably heard that the unborn child can hear their mother’s voice as well other sounds around her, and the child will react immediately to that voice after birth.

Reading books aloud before your child is born will be of great benefit to him or her. Although they may not understand the words, the cadence and rhythm of reading will soothe the baby, as well as occupying the developing senses. This pattern of speech is relaxing to the fetus, and ultrasounds have shown that after a mother has read aloud even a few times, her baby will react with pleasure as she begin to read aloud again, hours or even days later.

The rewards of being read to whilst in the womb stay with babies after they are born. By continuing to read aloud to her baby after birth, a mother can encourage her child to see books and their strange markings as sources of fun, excitement, and amusement. Eventually the baby will be able to focus on the pictures, verbalize the words, and begin to recognize the patterns in those mysterious marks that we call letters and words.

When you read to your baby, make an effort to encourage to apply all the senses. Books made of soft cloth are ideal for a child to grasp, especially those with different textures. There are books with squeakers inside to imitate ducks, frogs or other animals that will delight a child and provide positive feedback from being actively involved in reading a book. Books that encourage a child to participate and illustrate such actions also allow them to involve their five senses in the process of learning to read.

As a child grows older you can encourage him or her turn the pages for themselves, or point out things in the illustrations that are mentioned in the book. You can also teach them a few sounds of the alphabet by pointing them out in the book. When a child learns something from a book, and feels proud, the printed word will forever be associated with positive feelings!

Your involvement is the key to instilling a love of reading. Children naturally want to be near to their mothers and fathers, and love to do things with them. If reading is one of these things, it will automatically be associated with closeness and other good things.

As they grow older, you can play alphabet games with them to help them learn their letters, using billboards on the streets, signs or license plates. You can reinforce the sounds of letters by playing guessing games using the objects that are all around you. Teaching your child to love reading can be so much fun for both of you!

Kenneth is a teacher with many years of experience in ESL at Dickson’s English School in Tamsui, Taiwan. You can visit the school blog at to find out more about what students are doing, how important fluency is, and how much fun we’re having. For other advice and help, check out his column at

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