Expanding reading horizons

Beyond printed books, there is a world of literacy adventure to explore with your child. These guidelines will help chart a course to expanded reading possibilities.

By Carolyn James, Ph.D.

LeapFrog Literacy Expert

As the literacy development expert on LeapFrog’s Learning Team, Carolyn ensures that the curricular design in LeapFrog products is grounded in the latest educational research. Before joining LeapFrog, Carolyn was a reading professor at Sacramento State University, a curriculum developer for the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley, and a teacher in the San Francisco bay area. She earned her doctorate in educational psychology at Michigan State University.

Think outside the book

Books are vital and should be the cornerstore to your child's reading development. But there are other ways to broaden your child's literacy horizons that go beyond the printed word. From infancy to early childhood, these guidelines will help build your child's reading skills in different ways. Don't be afraid to think outside the book!

Foster oral language development

Oral language and reading development go hand in hand. That is, when children are talking and listening—whether they are retelling a funny story at the dinner table or singing rhyming songs as they pick up toys—they are learning that words and language are part of the fun. At the same time, they are developing skills like sequencing events and recognizing rhymes that are linked to future success with reading and writing. So talk and listen, explain things and ask questions, sing songs and make up simple chants. Turn car trips and walks to the park into opportunities to predict the weather based on the clouds, plan a birthday party, or create your own silly limericks. And as you help your child make predictions, outline plans, and recognize the sounds and rhythms of language, be assured that you are reinforcing skills that will help them comprehend what they read, organize their writing, and determine word spellings in the years to come.

Remember that variety is essential

Providing children with a wide variety of experiences helps them build background knowledge and conceptual understanding that will support their future growth as readers and writers. And broadening your child’s sphere of experiences does not require more money or time. It can be as simple as taking a new route to the grocery store and talking about the different things you see along the way, or exploring new shelves in the library that contain nonfiction books about cheetahs or trains or some other passion topic that piques your child’s interest, or volunteering to walk a dog from the local animal shelter. Each new experience and every new book introduces your child to vocabulary, ideas, and knowledge about the world that will help them comprehend what they read and express themselves with greater precision and sophistication as they move into the classroom and beyond.

Explore audio books, ebooks and more

The availability of audio books for children has skyrocketed in the last few years, and it’s exciting to note that time spent with audio-based ebooks for kids can have important educational benefits. Although there is no denying the value of enjoying print on a page or touchscreen, children also benefit from listening to text read aloud:

  • With audio books and ebooks, children have opportunities to hear models of fluent reading. That is, they hear an accurate reading of the text set at an appropriate pace with plenty of expression. Exposure to models of fluent reading has been shown to have a positive impact on children’s own oral reading fluency.

  • Audio books and ebooks also allow children access to text that may be above their individual reading level, exposing them to more sophisticated vocabulary and sentence structures. This can be especially beneficial for struggling readers who may need an extra boost to “stick with it” as the books they are able to read on their own may contain a relatively limited number of words and more basic sentences and storylines. 

  • Listening to stories read aloud helps build an understanding of narrative structure as it fosters imagination and encourages visualization—skills linked to improved reading comprehension. And perhaps most importantly, children’s audio books have the potential to help reinforce the notion that reading is a pleasurable activity to enjoy throughout life.