Tip the Balance towards Readers

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”
 – Benjamin Franklin

This quote is all parents really need to know to encourage their young children to become readers. Parenting is a hands-on endeavor so involve them in the learning-to-read-process, by engaging with them, verbally and through play!

When you engage verbally, in other words by talking with your child, you’re developing their language skills, which is vital preparation for future reading skills. Play gives context and meaning to new vocabulary words plus provides an acceptable environment to be silly—to create new sounds, new words…to have FUN! When you’ve helped your child become a reader, you’ve open a world of possibilities to them! 

Below are some tips parents can use
to help their children become readers!


Talk to Your Baby:

  • Describe what your baby is doing — the sights and sounds around baby
  • Encourage and participate in baby’s cooing and babbling — this is their pre-language way of communicating!

Talk to Your Toddler & Beyond:

  • Foster communication by giving your undivided attention
  • Understand that the reason behind “why?” or “how?” is a genuine attempt to gain knowledge
  • Promote dialogue by listening to your child’s thoughts and giving them permission to share their feelings — negative feelings as well as positive!
  • Finger plays contribute to language development of course, but also have cross-midline movement that help develop eye muscles for reading


  • Language can be likened to song, with a beat and rhythm – sing whenever possible and sing a variety of songs and chants! Include rhythm instruments to highlight the beat, rhythms — even tone of songs
  • Songs are a natural way to expand your child’s vocabulary
  • Singing songs help children understand unfamiliar, new words. The meaning of any new words are gleaned from the context of the song

Read Books:

THIS is key to helping children learn to read!

Reading aloud to your child:

  • Develops letter and sound recognition
  • Creates larger vocabularies
  • Introduce the concepts of print, for example:
    • There’s a front and back to a book
    • The name of a book is the title
    • Books can be fiction or non-fiction
    • Books have authors

Provide Pretend Play:

  • Label common items to cultivate ‘sight word’ reading
  • Provide play props that foster print awareness
  • Provide play accessories (and friends!) to
    • Spark children’s imaginations encouraging social skills and language development
    • Recreating common home themes/scenarios and/or stories

Provide Puzzle Play:

Puzzles can be used as a tool for language development!

  • Have your child describe each puzzle piece and where they think it may go in the puzzle
  • Use simple knob puzzles with the item’s name printed on the puzzle to encourage ‘sight word’ reading
  • Use 2-piece jigsaw pieces that pair item-to-word, again for ‘sight word’ reading


Use these tips, turn your children into readers and they’ll have the opportunity to fulfill the following quote:

“Reading can be a road to freedom or a key to a secret garden, which, if tended, will transform all of life.”
– Katherine Paterson


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Karen WhittierContributor

Karen Whittier, better known as Teacher Karen, is Early Childhood Engineer and Play Specialist for Play & Grow. Play & Grow provides parents with developmental products and resources to create play-based, hands-on activities for their children. Play & Grow also provides toy and book reviews and recommendations as well as offers local toy rentals.

With her experience as an engineer plus early childhood educator, in addition to being a parent, and now grandmother, she knows the value and power of PLAY. PLAY is the WAY young children learn BEST! Teacher Karen looks forward to sharing meaningful moments of PLAY with families!

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