From babies to preschoolers: Developing good reading habits in children

By Cara Johnson-Bader

Reading – and a love of reading – begins at home. It is important to incorporate daily reading into your child’s schedule. Whether you read together during breakfast, while waiting for an appointment, when you get home from a program or event, or at bedtime, designate a time every day to read together.

Reading Tips for Babies

Choose books with simple, bright, and colorful shapes.

• Snuggle up with a book. Hold your baby in your lap and open to the beginning of the book.

• Do not be concerned if you cannot get to the end of the book.

• Turn the pages slowly and describe what you see on each page.

• Recite or sing nursery rhymes and songs.

• By reading with your baby, you foster a love of books and reading.

Reading Tips for Toddlers

• Set a regular and relied-upon reading time. Predictability is important with this age group.

• Choose engaging books with simple sentence structures and repetition. Books with flaps or different textures to touch are a toddler favorite.

• Toddlers tend to have shorter attention spans, so look for text that is short and simple. Read a little bit several times a day.

• Point to the words as you read. This will help your child learn that reading goes from left to right and understand that the word they say is the word they see.

• Ask questions and take time to listen to your toddler’s answers. This back-and-forth conversation helps build important language skills.

• As you know, toddlers are on the go, so keep your reading time lively and engaging. Use interesting voices when reading, incorporate puppets or props, or add sound effects. For example, encourage your toddler to meow like a cat every time they see a cat on the page.

Reading Tips for Preschoolers

• Read to your preschooler every day.

• Visit the library and check out books together. Attend events at the library, too. It is a wonderful way to help foster a love of reading.

• Point out the printed words in your home and other places you take your child, such as the grocery store. From stop signs to local store signs, you will be amazed at how quickly your child will be able to read environmental print around them. Do not be surprised if your little reader asks for an ice cream as you pass a Dairy Queen or requests a toy as you drive past Target. Your child will read the signs.

• Choose picture books with a variety of vocabulary and beautiful illustrations.

• Create a special place in your home for your child to read, write, and draw. Provide a wide variety of books for your child to enjoy and explore.

• Encourage your child to write. Provide pen and paper, so that they can practice writing. They can create cards for loved ones, help write a grocery list, and journal about their adventures.

• Let your child see you read, as your role modeling sends a powerful message about reading. If you are a reader, your child will be, too.

• Reading is at the heart of learning. By reading with and talking with your child, you are ensuring that he or she has a solid foundation for all future learning. So read often and with enthusiasm, and you will help your child develop critical reading skills.

Cara Johnson-Bader is the Vice President of Marketing and Parent Experiences at New Horizon Academy and mother of two young boys. Learn more about New Horizon Academy at

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