When Should My Child Start Reading and What Should They Read?

Studies have shown that most children will be able to read between kindergarten and second grade if they are coached by individuals (such as a parent, teacher, grandparent, older friend, etc.) who is close to them. However, they need to go through several stages before they become fully adept at reading and comprehending the written word.

It is important that you monitor your child’s progress through the various stages to ensure that he/she is on track. If your child is a pre-schooler, he is still at the pre-reading stage but should be able to repeat materials that are read to him repeatedly (particularly if the words rhyme). Once he moves to kindergarten, he should be able to distinguish the different sounds that each letter makes. This ability is very important and must be mastered before your child can proceed to the next level.

However, the majority of children are not able to read properly before the age of 5 because the neural connections that enable them to decode printed letters and combine them to form words have not fully developed.

The best way to prep your child during his/her toddler years is through indirect instruction. You should show your child that books are important, fun and educational and the best technique of accomplishing this is by reading to him/her. Reading to babies helps in language development because it immerses them in the rhythms and sounds of speech. You also get their full attention while creating an unforgettable bonding experience.

Between 6 – 11 months, babies like to look at simple boards containing pictures. From the age of 1, books with simple rhymes are more likely to engage your child’s attention and interest, while between the ages of 2 and 3, they can understand books containing simple stories. The following is a step by step breakdown of what to read to them at each stage.

Birth - 6 months

Introduce your child to books with large, high-contrast pictures and no text. Your baby’s eyesight is still developing and will be unable to distinguish letters. You could also read to them from magazines and grown-up books to immerse them in the rhythms and sounds of speech.

7 - 12 months

By this time, your baby can comprehend some of the simple everyday words used around him/her. Such words include "daddy," "mommy," "doggy," or "bottle." It is best to read to them from simple board books that contain one or two texts illustrating a picture. When saying a word, you can point to the corresponding picture repeatedly so that your child associates the sound with the object.

13 - 24 Months

At this point, you can make use of books with one or two simple sentences per page. Such books tend to be about animals, and you can make the corresponding animal noises while reading.

Book Suggestions

The following are some of the books you can read to your child as he/she goes through the various reading stages.

Sam McBratney: - Guess How Much I Love You

Dr. Seuss: - Anything by this author is an excellent choice.

Sandra Boynton: - Moo, Baa, LA LA LA

Nancy White Carlstrom: - Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

Mem Fox: - Time for Bed

Lucy Cousins: - Maisy's Colors

Margaret Wise: - Brown Big Red Barn

Tim Weare: - I'm a Little Caterpillar

Debra Frasier: - On the Day You Were Born

Robert N. Munsch: - Love You Forever

Reading to your child is essential for helping them form the basis of the written word and develop into a lifelong book reader. If you read to them from the right books at the right time, you’ll likely raise a child who will always appreciate the value of reading.