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A dad is reading a book to his young son. Kids, reading, education, activities.

When Should Kids Start Reading and How to Teach Them?

Instruction. Entertainment. Education. Inspiration. Motivation. All of these and more are the direct result of reading. As a child, exposure to reading and learning to read can sow the seeds of future success.

The rewards are many and the downsides are few. Your kids will reap that harvest later in life while you, as a parent, get to see your beautiful little babies learn and grow, all while making wonderful memories that you can cherish forever. Reading is a vital part of any child’s upbringing and should be looked upon as a welcome challenge for any parent.

Reading and Learning to Read

A mom is reading a book to her young girl. Kids, reading, education, activities.

The process of learning to read begins long before kids can wrap their heads around the symbols in the books they see. As parents, we can set the stage by providing them with the experiences they need to encourage them to read. New skills, fantastic adventures and great memories through reading are just around the corner. There is no better time than now to start!

Developing a love for reading starts in many ways:

  •   Dad and mom reading to their child before bed or nap time
  •   Sound books and interactive books that your kids play with as toddlers
  •   The example you set by reading when you are around them

However, kids won’t magically begin picking up books and start reading. Parents need to take the initiative to get the reading train moving by taking a few steps to help their kids along the way. 

When Should Kids Start Reading?

A Dad is reading a book to his baby. Kids, reading, education, activities.

As always with anything to do with kids, the age at which they begin developing certain skills varies greatly. Even though this is well known, parents all over the world are continually asking, “At what age should our kids start reading?”. Unfortunately, there is no black-and-white answer to this often-discussed question.

At What Age Are Kids Expected to Read?

Developmentally, children are spread widely across a large spectrum but for the most part, kids are expected to be able to learn to read in their first or second year of school, at the age of 6 or 7 years old.

Is Learning to Read Earlier Beneficial?

Absolutely! Just as with learning to speak, the foundation for reading begins long before your kids begin to learn to read. According to: “Cradling Literacy: Building Teachers’ Skills to Nurture Early Language and Literacy Birth to Five”, in the first 3 years of a child’s life “infants and toddlers begin acquiring the first of thousands of words they will use throughout their lives while at the same time laying the foundation for grammar that they will use for the rest of their lives.

How Long Does It Take to Learn to Read?

Learning to read is a process that extends from early childhood into the teenage years, but the basics take much less time than that. Most kids have a lot of exposure to letters and sounds while they are babies and toddlers. So in their first years of school, it only takes a few months for them to get a good grasp on reading.    

What Are the Best Books to Teach Reading?

Top view of a bunch of musical picture books. Kids, reading, education, activities.

Parents and teachers alike are always looking for the best books to use in the quest to teach kids how to read. While individual tastes in what is funny, exciting, or appealing vary, some great books are common to almost everyone trying to teach kids how to read.

  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: An exciting tale of a pigeon who is not supposed to drive a bus yet constantly wants to do so while trying to convince the audience (your kids) to let him get away with it.
  • Where the Wild Things Are: When a boy gets sent to his room with no supper for not listening, he decides to go on an adventure. A forest grows in his room, and he boards a ship, meeting monsters and other wild things.
  • The Cat in the Hat: The Doctor Suess classic where a cat (in a hat!) invites himself over to a brother and sister’s home for a day of mischievous fun.

Books for younger kids, specifically sound books, are a great way to begin this learning process. What kinds of books are suited for this early childhood learning curve and are the best books to learn to read? 

  • Sing the Alphabet: What better way to teach your kids to recognize letters than with fun tunes and bright illustrations?
  • Count with Nursery Rhymes: Counting and reading, all in one book? With “Count with Nursery Rhymes”, you get the best of both worlds.

Reading at Age 2 and 3

A young boy is picking a book from a basket. Kids, reading, education, activities.

Children are curious, they want to learn about everything. Their brains are also in a sponge-like, “absorb everything around me”-type of state. As a bonus, they want to cuddle and enjoy time with their parents. It’s always a great idea to take advantage of that as much as possible because eventually, they will grow up and might not want to cuddle as much anymore. You can also use that opportunity to read to them, ideally regularly. But why would you want to do such a thing?

  1. Reading is Beneficial for Young Kids. Young kids who are ready to have stronger positive feelings towards reading, as they associate these memories with comfort and love.

  2. Language Development. Studies have shown that kids at the age of 2 that are read to regularly, have better language comprehension and vocabulary than their peers.

  3. Cognitive Development. Researchers found that early access to books as a kid was twice as important as the level of education of their parents, proving that reading to kids is critical for cognitive development. 

  4. Build a Reading Framework for Future Enjoyment and Studies. Success in life is highly correlated to a person’s ability to read. By setting the foundation for reading, you are laying the groundwork for a successful life. 

Reading Strategies for You and Your Kids

A Mom is guiding her toddler's finger on the music button of an open book. Kids, reading, education, activities.

When we as parents understood what our love for reading could do for our kids, we decided to find ways to implement reading into our lives. Understandably, kids don’t have large attention spans so finding the right strategy was important to start things off right. How did we begin our child’s reading journey?

Start with Sound Books

Sounds books are the best place to start because young kids love the noises that are associated with the pictures. It's easier for them to make these connections when they are young.

Simple Books with Bright Illustrations and Few Words

Catching the eye of toddlers with bright illustrations is the next step in the learning process. A few words on the page with attention-grabbing pictures, give them something to look at while you read the story.

Develop Routines Around Reading

“Storytime” or “reading time” is often hallowed ground in the homes of families with young kids. This habit helps kids understand routines and builds excitement and expectation around reading (and it’s fun).

At the same time, every parent faces hardships in teaching their kids to read. Limited time and dwindling commitment top the list. What's the solution? Make reading a non-negotiable part of your daily routine, even if it's for ten minutes only. Choose books that align with your child's interests to boost engagement.

Use Age-Appropriate Books for the Best Results

Reading “War and Peace” to a toddler isn’t the best way to get a solid reading habit started. Go with age-appropriate books to get them hooked on the excitement and adventure of a good story and change as they grow other, age-appropriate titles.

Ask Questions and Engage with Kids After Reading

A good rule of thumb is to ask your kids “What did you love?” and “What did you learn?”. These conversations are not always going to lead to deep insights but they will get your kids in the habit of thinking about what you read with them, which is a powerful developmental tool. 

Should a 4-Year-Old Be Able to Read?

A Dad is reading a book to his young son. Kids, reading, education, activities.

Can a 3-year-old read? Can a 4-year-old read? Many parents want to know if they can teach their kids to read at the early age of 3 or 4.

Is it possible to teach a child that young to read? Yes, it can be done however, that is not the norm. Other parts of the brain are busy developing at that time and the part of the brain that is responsible for reading isn’t necessarily the top priority (in a biological sense). 

It's easy as a parent to get carried away with being ahead of the curve of development. When it comes to reading, parents should relax and not worry about getting their kids to read too early. Building good habits and structure around reading is more important.

Reading: The Gateway to Greatness

Reading should be fun! Kids will value the act of reading and see it as a way to learn, grow, be entertained and so much more. Do this by building good habits, creating a reading culture and being a good example of reading to your kids.

Patience is a crucial part of this process because learning to read is hard, but it is worth it. Enjoy this part of the parenting process because you only get to do it once with each child!

As a closure to this story, remember that books are just the beginning. Language and stories thrive beyond the printed page. Add storytelling into the mix - share family stories or make up new ones together. Sing together! Songs with repetitive phrases help with language acquisition. Try other activities like fingerplays to enhance motor motor skills and rhythm. These methods enrich language exposure and make learning a part of everyday fun for your little one.

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Cali's Books, founder, about us, why I love books, children's books

Hi! I'm Cali, Founder of Cali's Books

“I’ve loved books since childhood and wanted to transmit this enthusiasm to my children”

I'm a mom of two young children who trained as an engineer and worked in investment banking and at Disney. A French of Caribbean origin (Martinique to be precise!), I grew up in Paris. Los Angeles is now the place I call home!

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