In this day and age of social media, on-demand TV, and video games, it is easy to lose sight of one of the most beneficial activities you can do and encourage in your children… Reading! Reading aloud with young children can enhance parent-child relationships and prepare young minds to learn language. Reading with older children and teenagers can help teach importance life lessons (like respecting other’s views and being kind) and also start conversations on more complicated or difficult subjects (like bullying and harassment, racism, and greed). No age is too young or too old to read aloud together or share a book. Try to set aside time to read with your child every day. It can be the perfect quiet activity before bed/nap. The more excitement and fun you show towards reading the more likely your child will be to embrace it.
Here are some recommendations for specific age groups and what we like to read with our kids:
At this age, babies enjoy looking at pictures – especially of faces, bright colors, and contrasting patterns – and revel in the one-on-one interaction. Dr. Bar-Lev reads “Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You” by Nancy Tillman to her new twin boys, Asher and Noah.
Babies will start grabbing the books, mouthing/chewing the pages (think board books or Indestructibles) and even start turning the pages (with some help from you). Don’t worry about finishing a whole book. Just focus on pages you and your baby enjoy. Dr. Cass and her grandkids love “Goodnight, Gorilla,” by Peggy Rathmann.
Your child will start pointing to pictures in the book and be able to answer simple questions like “where is the dog?” or “what does the cow say?”
They may want to read the same book over and over again! Ask questions about what you are reading like “what’s that?” or “where are all the blue things?” Dr. Blazer and her son, Daniel, are reading Thomas the Train and Lion King books… over and over again!
Kids this age will be able to tell you about the story in their own words or pretend to read it to you. Continue to ask questions about what’s on the pages and point out colors, numbers, and letters. Dr. Bar-Lev and Dr. Sahai enjoy reading Mo Willems’ books including Pigeon, Elephant and Piggie, and Knuffle Bunny at home with the kids.
Grade school children
Consider reading the books your child is reading in his/her classroom. Continue to read out loud. Children can often understand more complicated words and grammar when spoken than when written. Dr. Sahai and her 8-year-old daughter, Nainika, have read “Wonder” by: R.J. Palacio. Dr. Domenico enjoys “Harry Potter” or “The Hardy Boys” series with his boys, and Dr. Pugh reads “Percy Jackson and the Olympias” by Rick Riordan with her kids. Dr. Cass recommends “The Chronicles of Narnia,” by C.S. Lewis, a great series to read at any age.
You can still read out loud with your teenager too. It may not be nightly given how busy our teens get, but you could share a book on vacation or read aloud while doing the dishes. These shared stories will not only create lasting memories but provide an important continued connection.
Additional articles for more thoughts, ideas, and information
- "A Guide to Reading With Your Child”
- "Helping Your Child Learn to Read"
- “Recommended Reading: Books to Build Character & Teach Your Child Important Values"
- “Why I read aloud with my teens"