Welcome to Family Reading Month

Learning expert Dr. Carolyn James gives you tips on building your child's reading skills.


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.

Reading to children and learning benefits

Research suggests that children who are not reading proficiently by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. Additional studies show that reading aloud to your child is the most important thing you can do to help build skills for future reading success, yet according to a new study from Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and Macy’s, only 33% of parents read bedtime stories daily with their children.

This statistic may be surprising considering how difficult it is to deny the powerful bonding moments created as you read to your child. What’s especially encouraging, however, is the research that supports how these moments contribute to learning benefits down the road. As children listen to books read aloud, they are building vocabulary, learning about the sounds and rhythms of language, and developing a sense that reading is an enjoyable, worthwhile activity that fosters imagination and creativity.

Build a range of reading skills

As you make time for read aloud opportunities this month, keep in mind that exposing children to many types of texts to helps build their vocabulary and understanding of how print works. Here are a few tips for introducing your child to different types of books to build a range of reading skills:

  • Narrative Storybooks. Storybooks help children learn how stories are put together. As children begin to recognize that stories have characters, a setting and a sequence of events that create a beginning, middle and end, they can use this knowledge of story structure to help them comprehend new stories. Tip: Summarize what you’ve read. After sharing a story, ask your child to recall the names of the characters, the general setting, and the events that happened first, in the middle, and at the end.

  • Pattern Books. Pattern books use rhyme, repetitions, and refrains to make the text predictable. They invite children to make predictions about words, phrases, events and characters that could come next in the book. Tip: Practice a proven reading strategy: making predictions. Point out how the book follows a pattern, with just a word or phrase changing on each page. Encourage your child to read along, using the story and illustrations to predict the new word or phrase that fits in the pattern.

  • Rhyming Books. Rhyming books can help children learn about the sounds of language and build phonological awareness. Phonological awareness, the ability to recognize and manipulate the sounds in spoken words, is strongly related to later reading achievement. Tip: Reading rhyming books together, you can help build your child’s sensitivity to the sounds that make up our language. Take opportunities to pause and let your child complete a rhyming phrase or come up with additional rhyming words, even silly ones!

  • Informational Books. Books that include information about the world allow children to follow their natural curiosity as they recognize how they can learn from reading and build awareness that print carries meaning. Tip: As you read, have your child repeat new vocabulary words and ask questions that help your child make predictions and connections and read between the lines (Why do you think the bird built its nest in that tall tree? Do you think we would see any penguins as we walk to school?)