The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages parents to read to their children from infancy for healthy brain development and school-readiness. It’s #1 on the AAP’s list of the “5 Rs” of early education:
1. Reading together as a fun daily family activity;
2. Rhyming, playing, talking, singing, and cuddling together throughout the day;
3. Routines and regular times for meals, play, and sleeping, which help children know what they can expect and what is expected from them;
4. Rewards for everyday successes, particularly for effort toward worthwhile goals, such as helping, realizing that praise from those closest to a child is a very potent reward; and
5. Relationships that are reciprocal, nurturing, purposeful, and enduring, which are the foundation of a healthy early brain and child development.
Below are resources to help make reading a part of your family’s daily routine!
What kind of language skills should your child have at 12 months – or at 3 years? How can you help your child develop healthy language and early reading skills? Reach Out and Read’s chart of Milestones of Early Literacy Development is an easy-to-follow guideline of what your child is doing, saying, and learning, from 6 months through 5 years of age, with tips for parents to help their children learn and grow.
Highlight: 12-24 Months
Communication and Cognition
What to Read
holds and walks with book
no longer puts book in mouth right away
turns board book pages
says single words, then 2- to 4-word phrases
gives book to adult to read; points at pictures
turns book right-side up
names pictures, follows simple stories
smile and answer when your child speaks or points
let your child help turn the pages
keep naming things
use books in family routines: naptime, playtime, bedtime, on the potty, in the car or bus
use books to calm or distract your child while waiting
books that name things
Children’s Book Lists
The single most important activity for building the skills needed for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. Below are some booklists to help get you started.
Our “Awesome Preschool Book Lists” Board on Pinterest: check regularly for updates.
Reach Out and Read Annotated Book List, by age, from 6 months – 5 years (Print & take this list to your local library or book store!)
Lists provided by the Brooklyn Public Library:
- Books for Babies (3-12 months and 12-18 months)
- Books for Toddlers (18 months – 24 months, and 2-3 years old)
- Books for Preschoolers (3-5 years old)
What children like in books
Here is a simple guide to the kinds of books most suitable for children at different ages.
INFANTS (6-12 months)
Board books with photos of babies
Sturdy, brightly colored board books to touch and taste
Books with pictures of things they see every day balls, bottles, chairs, dogs
Small books sized for small hands
YOUNGER TODDLERS (12-24 months)
Sturdy board books they can handle and carry
Books that show children doing familiar things–sleeping, eating, playing
Goodnight books for bedtime
Books about saying goodbye and hello
Books with only a few words on the page
Books with simple rhymes or predictable text
OLDER TODDLERS (24-36 months)
Books with pictures and names of many different things
Books with board pages — but also books with paper pages
Silly books and funny books
Books with rhyme and rhythm, and repeated text they can learn by heart
Books about children and families
Books about food, animals, trucks,and other favorite objects
PRESCHOOLERS (3-5 years)
Books that tell stories
Books about kids who look like and live like them
And also books about different places and different ways of living
Books about going to school or daycare
Books about making friends
Books with simple text they can memorize
Counting books, alphabet books, search and find books
Reading Tips for Parents & Caregivers
Reading aloud to young children and talking together every day helps create secure relationships and a strong foundation for learning. Books can become an important part of every family’s naptime, playtime, and bedtime routines.
Below is guidance for sharing books with your child, from birth through the preschool years.
The first year
- Babies love your voice: sing, talk, and read aloud as often as possible.
- Babies love picture books and books with rhymes.
- When you read to your baby, you’re teaching him that sitting on your lap and being read to feels good and that books are enjoyable.
- It’s okay if your child eats the book! This is how babies explore and learn about their world.
12 to 18 months
- If you ask What’s that? and then name the picture, your baby will learn the names for things.
- Once babies start to walk, holding them on your lap can be a struggle. Some children will want to move around during a story. That’s OK.
- Read stories every day, but let your child help decide how long you read.
- When your child grabs the book, she is showing a healthy drive for independence. She’s not being bad.
18 to 36 months
- Stories are a good way to help toddlers increase their attention spans. If your toddler listens to a story for five minutes, that’s a long time. As children grow, they will sit longer.
- Sometimes you don’t have to read what’s actually written on the page. You can just talk about the pictures, or make up a story about what’s happening.
- Children learn by imitating. Does she ever read to her teddy bears or dolls? Does she see you read?
- One way children learn to read – and learn new words – is by hearing the same story again and again. It might be boring to you, but it isn’t to him. Toddlers enjoy the repetition.
3 years and up
- Talk about the pictures, and the story. Ask who, what and where questions. And remember to give your child time to answer.
- Your child might want to tell you a story. Every time she retells a favorite story, or changes the story, she is practicing using language in a very important way.
- Scribbling and pretend writing is the first step toward real writing. Does he ever pretend to write? Do you ever show him the letters in his name?
- Do you have a library card? Going to the library regularly opens up the world inside books. Notice your preschooler’s interests and let her help choose which books to take home.
Note: This guidance is general, and may not reflect your child’s development. If you have any questions about your child’s development, consult with his or her healthcare provider.
More Reading Tips!
Here are a few more ideas for making reading together fun for you and your child.
- Make reading part of every day.
Reading at bedtime is great, but try reading at other times, like on the bus or during snack time.
- Have fun.
Children who love books learn to read. Books can be part of special time with your child.
- A few minutes is okay.
Young children can only sit for a few minutes for a story, but as they grow, they will sit longer.
- Talk about the pictures.
You do not have to read the book to tell a story.
Libraries in the Greater New York region:
NYPL (New York Public Libraries – Manhattan, Bronx, Staten Island)
Suffolk County Libraries (listing of libraries in Suffolk County)
Is your home literacy-friendly? Use this Checklist from Get Ready to Read! as a guideline to see what you can do to help your child learn and love to read.
This is an overview of what to expect at children’s pediatric checkups from 0-21 years old – a fantastic resource, from KidsHealth.
Find more reading tips and parenting books about early literacy on the National Reach Out and Read, Inc. website.
The Center for Children’s Initiatives (formerly Child Care Inc.) offers many resources related to the care and healthy development of children, including referrals to child care providers and training to become a licensed child care provider.
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