Raising kids who read

By Dr. Melissa Martin

Why is it important to expose babies, toddlers, and younger children to the world of books? Why is it important to read aloud to babies and toddlers? Why is it important to make reading fun for children?

“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents,” surmised Emilie Buchwald. I agree.

Parents are a child’s first teachers, first role models, and first communicators; talking, listening, singing, making sounds, smiling, laughing, and hugging. Homes are the building blocks of society. And parents are like the royal family in the United Kingdom — of utmost significance in their castle.

In a 2016 Scholastic study, the results revealed three out of four parents who have children ages 5 and younger start reading aloud before their child reaches his first birthday. And 40 percent of parents reported they started reading when their child was less than 3 months old. (www.scholastic.com)

I give a round of applause to these parents — my hands are clapping and my lips are smiling.

And the reading tip of the day is to make reading fun for younger children so they will read for pleasure in the future. Family experiences with books prepare children for learning long before they start school. Kids need to develop an emotional connection to reading materials.

Reading books with children can help with empathy skill-building as they identify with the characters and relate to their feelings. And reading exercises a child’s brain like movement exercises her body. Imagination and creativity dance together in book-reading. And books are downright entertaining!

Think about your favorite picture books of childhood. How do you feel about these books? I remember the Little Golden Books and “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter.

“Learning to read and write doesn’t start in kindergarten or first grade. Developing language and literacy skills begins at birth through everyday loving interactions, such as sharing books, telling stories, singing songs and talking to one another.” (www.zerotothree.org/early-learning/early-literacy)

Is it too early to begin reading to a 6-month-old? Literacy experts suggest soft cloth books or chunky board books that a baby can safely slobber on as you read to them because infants use their mouths to explore their environment. When a parent uses her/his voice to make the words and pictures exciting, the child will respond.

Does technology hinder or help toddlers’ learning? In our modern lives with technological devices, children can become overly dependent on television, video games, and table computers (just like adults). That’s why it’s important to make books the centerpiece of learning and limit screen time for younger children.

Should parents read an electronic book or a paper book to children? Balance is the word of the day. Holding a paper book adds the sensation of touch and children like to turn the pages.

Child librarians use books, rhymes, songs, musical instruments, fingerplays, puppets, and movement to make storytime fun. Some libraries have programs just for babies. Make your public library a frequent stop as you encourage the love of learning via books.


• Helping Your Child Become a Confident Reader and Writer Starting from Birth, downloadable booklet (no cost), offers ways to nurture early literacy skills via daily interactions with children from birth to 5 years. www.zerotothree.org/

RAISING BOOKWORMS: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment by Emma Walton Hamilton. www.raisingbookworms.com.


By Dr. Melissa Martin

Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.