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Ready Your Child For Reading

By Brent Sitton

It's never too soon to start your child on the path to reading. Simply talking to your infant and toddler helps her develop the vocabulary she will need as she enters school and begins to read. As you point and name objects, she will begin to understand the meaning of words, and will eventually begin to incorporate those words into her vocabulary.

The U.S. Department of Education recommends beginning to read to your baby when she is six months old. According to their 2003 report, "Hearing words over and over helps her become familiar with them. Reading to your baby is one of the best ways to help her learn."

In that same report, the Department of Education also recommends that parents reach out to groups that can:

* Help you find age-appropriate books to use at home with your child;

* Show you creative ways to use books with your child and other tips to help her learn; and

* Provide year-round children's reading and educational activities.

A child's love for reading grows when the words on the page come to life through experiences shared as a family. For example, after reading Eric Carle's Ten Little Rubber Ducks to your toddler, you can learn all about real ducks, make ocean snacks, or go on a family outing and feed the ducks at a nearby pond.

In order to help your child get ready to read, the Department of Education also recommends:

* Using sounds, songs, gestures, and words that rhyme to help your baby learn about language and its many uses.

* Pointing out the printed words in your home and other places you take your child to, such as the grocery store.

* Spending as much time listening to your child as you do talking to her.

* Taking children's books and writing materials with you whenever you leave home. This gives your child fun activities to entertain and occupy herself while traveling and running errands.

* Creating a quiet, special place in your home for your child to read, write, and draw.

* Keeping books and other reading materials where your child can easily reach them. Having her own bookshelf or small bookcase will not only make her feel special, but will also communicate to her that reading is special.

* Reading books, newspapers and magazines yourself, so that your child can see that reading is important.

* Limiting the amount and type of television you and your child watch.

The best thing for you do to ensure that your child will grow up reading well and loving to read is to read to her every day. The time you spend reading together will create a special bond between the two of you, and will open the doors for a dialogue that will continue throughout the more trying years of adolescence. The Department of Education suggests that, when you're reading, you discuss new words. As an example, they suggest that you say, "This big house is called a palace. Who do you think lives in a palace?" Likewise, they suggest taking time to ask about the pictures and what your child thinks is happening in the story.

The same report suggests additional strategies for early literacy:

* When reading a book with large print, point at each word as you read it. Your child will understand that the word being spoken is the word she sees.

* Read a favorite book over and over again.

* Read stories with rhyming words and lines that repeat, and have your child join in.

* Read from a variety of children's books, including fairy tales, poems, and non-fiction.

The more strategies you can incorporate into your child's reading experience, the more likely you are to help your child develop into a strong reader.

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