By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Research on children's literacy shows that children thrive if they receive good attention and care from their parents, teachers, and child care providers. Children who learn to love books will grow up to be good readers. The very best time for children to learn to love books is while they are young. You can help them by making story times a regular part of their day and by encouraging them in their early attempts to speak, read, and write.

Here are some suggestions that can help parents and caregivers to be involved in a child's literacy development:

  • Visit the library: Local public library as well as school library is one of the best and the least expensive source of information for you. Libraries, even small ones, have shelves of books for parents and children. Consult a librarian if you do not find the materials you're looking for, or aren't sure what's available.
  • Read aloud: Reading aloud to your children, and letting them see you reading, are two of the best ways to help them on the road to literacy.
  • Playing with children: Reading should not always be a specific activity, you can incorporate reading in day-to-day activities and conversations that will help develop the child's literacy. Ordinary daily activities can also be an occasion for learning. For example, recognizing commercial signs and logos while out walking or driving is one of the first steps in learning to read.
  • Listen to your child read: When a child is learning how to read, he/she needs a lot of practice and encouragement. If a child has frequent opportunities to read aloud to a willing listener--often a parent or grand-parent or a sibling-he/she is more likely to become a fluent reader.
  • Encourage your child to write: With a little encouragement, a child's reading and writing development will proceed on parallel tracks. Even a very young child who sees the adults in her life writing letters and grocery lists and telephone messages will want to try writing also.
  • Talk with your child: Share conversations with young children over meal times and throughout the day and evening. Children learn words more easily when they hear them spoken often. Introduce new and interesting (and relevant) words at every opportunity.
  • Limit television viewing or videogame playing time: This way a child will have alternative ways to spend time in a more productive way, such as reading, playing, talking, etc.

When children become good readers in the early grades, they are far more likely to become better learners throughout their school years and beyond.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,