Reading tips: Start early to teach kids literacy skills

By Cara Johnson-Bader

Research tells us it is never too early to start reading to children. From the day they are born, infants, toddlers, and preschoolers develop language skills and pre-literacy skills every day that help them become readers. Children need between 10,000-12,000 words in their vocabulary to be ready for kindergarten, and reading is one of the best ways to develop these important skills.

But as a busy parent how do you find time to read? At New Horizon Academy, we know how important reading is and have almost 50 years of supporting our youngest learners develop reading skills. We have a few ideas for parents, too.

Here are a few easy to implement hints and tips to encourage reading and help children reach this important vocabulary goal.

Reading Tips for Busy Families

1. Schedule daily reading time. Just as you schedule other family activities, like dinner, gymnastics, bath night, etc., schedule reading time as part of your daily routine.

2. Carry books with you wherever you go. Create an on-the-go book bag. Fill it with books and writing materials, then take it with you whenever you leave home. This gives your child fun activities to entertain and occupy him while traveling, while waiting for food at the restaurant, and going to the doctor’s office or other appointments. The opportunities are endless.

3. Read environmental print. Environmental print is the print of everyday life. It’s the print that appears in signs, labels, and logos. Street signs, cereal boxes, labels on a granola bar, and the A in Albertsons. For many emergent readers, environmental print helps bridge the connection between letters and first efforts to read. Point out the printed words in your home and other places you take your child, such as the grocery store. Get creative and go on an adventure walk. Try to read the signs you see or identify letters of the alphabet as you walk together.

4. Listen to audio books or podcasts in the car. Turn off the radio and listen to an audio book or podcast. Your local library has great audio books for children and there are tons of wonderful podcasts for children. Here are a few of my family’s favorite podcasts:

Sesame Street – It features your favorite characters and offers fun stories, songs, alphabet activities, and more.

Brains On! – A fun podcast co-hosted by children about scientific concepts.

Wow in the World – A podcast from NPR about why and how things work.

5. Be a reading role model. Let your child see you read. This sends a message that reading is important.

It is an exciting and critical time of learning. By implementing these simple tips into your daily routine, you are helping your child become a reader. For more ideas to help your child develop the necessary skills to become a reader, visit

Cara Johnson-Bader is the vice president of marketing and parent experiences at New Horizon Academy and serves on the board of Doing Good Together. She is the wife of Craig and the mother of two incredible and full-of-energy boys — Ben and Will. When not attending her sons’ snowboarding, skiing, and baseball sporting events, she can be found playing board games and reading with her boys. Learn more about New Horizon Academy at

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