For Parents and Educators

The Power of Play

Storytelling Workshop

What's So Great About Books?

Books are a fun and necessary part of your child's development – both intellectual and emotional. The following are some tips to help you both get started on the right path to reading.

Make reading part of your every day life.

  • Reading a book or two before bedtime or naptime can be a wonderful habit. Look for other times during the day to relax and enjoy a story, too.

  • Once you get in the rhythm of this, get comfortable! Sit with your child on your lap, or tucked close under your arm so the pages are in view and you are snuggled up together.

Choose books that your child will enjoy.

  • Begin sharing books that have only a few words on each page.

  • Look for bright pictures, rhymes, repetition, and a simple story. Books need to be repeated many times – sometimes at the same sitting, or sometimes a few days later. Let your child decide.

  • Be sure to pick books you'll like reading over and over again.

Take advantage of your local library.

  • Libraries have extensive (and free!) collections to satisfy your child’s curiosity about reading.

  • Remember that the StoryBus works with the Chicago Public Library! Check their website for hours, locations, and book availability.

Be a playful reader.

  • Make up a different voice for each character.

  • Let your child turn the pages. This way, children learn how books are put together.

  • Wait and let your child finish a rhyme. This is an important way for her to become aware of the sounds that make up words.

Keep your child engaged and learning.

  • Before you begin a book, ask your child to guess what it will be about. Use the pictures on the cover, the title, and the pictures inside for this great thinking exercise.

  • Be sure to include the name of the book and the author and illustrator. (It is exciting to learn that people create each book, and your child can hear the names that connect with each new title).

  • Move your finger under the text to help your child understand you are reading from left to right, and top to bottom.

Don’t leave out the very young child, or the child who already reads.

  • Share board books with your six-month-old baby, or read chapters aloud to your pre-teen. Remember: reading should become a lifelong joy!

  • Books are great because the whole family can enjoy them. They supply their own rewards in the pictures, the experiences, the new thoughts, and the sharing.

Preparing a Child to Read

Developing a positive attitude toward reading is important during the early stages of learning. When your child discovers early on that reading can be fun, he learns to read willingly and actively. Make sure that your child gets beyond the challenge of these basic skills:

Knowledge of Letter Sounds:

Your child must be able to identify the separate sounds of letters in order to decipher the words they make.

Knowledge of Letter Names:

In order to successfully learn letter sounds, your child must be able to recognize and name the letters in the alphabet.


This is accomplished when a child can correctly match letters they see on the page with their appropriate sounds.

Reading Comprehension:

When your child has mastered all of the above, it is important to check that he understands the meanings of the words and ideas he is sounding out. When the child learns to decode a new word, he will also be learning to comprehend what the word means and how it can be used.

The next article contains home activities that can be used to develop these basic skills.

Parent and Child Activities

To make the most of your reading sessions, here are some suggestions you may like to try.

Keep story time active! Encourage your child to talk about the pictures and point out details in them. Stop reading occasionally to check in with him. Try to:

  • Make your child feel as if he is participating. Let him help you hold the book or turn the pages.
  • Encourage your child to “read” the story back to you. A young child may rely on her memory to do this. Ask your child to retell the story by reading the pictures. Ask her to start on the left side of the page and go to the right side, just as we do when we actually read.
  • Tell your child stories that you know or make up new ones. Children also enjoy hearing about real events that happened to you or other relatives and friends. You may want to make simple puppets out of paper bags or socks to help tell the stories.

And here are a few fun activities to help further develop the basic skills of literacy! Tip: Cut out each activity and glue or tape it to a colored index card. Keep all the cards together in a rubber band or hole punch them and put a key ring or string through the hole. Yarn works great for this. This format creates a portable, fun tool for you to take wherever you go!

  • Shapes (Square, Circle, and Triangle): Help your child find objects around the house that are in the shape of circles, squares, and triangles. Encourage him to name the shapes of each object, or to put objects of the same shape together.
  • Colors: Play a game with your child! Choose a color such as red, and ask your child to point out everything in the room that is red. The color game can be played at home, in a store, in the car, or in the grocery store.
  • Classifying: The grocery store is also an excellent place to show your child how like objects are grouped together. In the produce section, point out that the fruits are arranged in one area and the vegetables in another. Encourage your child to help you find items in the grocery store by asking him in which section you should look.
  • Sizes (Big and Little): Look for big objects and little objects around the house: outside, in magazines and books, and on television. Have your child compare the size of your shoes to his own shoes. Trace your hand and your child’s hand on a piece of paper. Encourage your child to tell you which is the big hand and which is the little hand.
  • Sounds: Ask your child to close his eyes and see if he can identify some ordinary household sounds: running water, a telephone, or doorbell ringing.
  • Labels: Print labels on cardboard or heavy paper and attach them to the object they describe. It is best to start out by labeling objects that are familiar to the child, such as a bed, table, chair, door, wall or window. After the labels have been up for a while, take them down and see if he can match them to the correct objects.
  • Signs: Billboards, labels, and advertisements are very good sources for reading practice. Usually the letters are large and the words are short. Very often they also include picture clues. When you take a walk, drive, or shop with your child, point out signs and ask her to sound out the words.

Finding learning opportunities and incorporating story time into your every day life can be an easy and fun way to prepare your child for school – and bring the family together with reading. Get creative with any of these ideas and enjoy!


Dolores Kohl Education Foundation
1770 First Street, Suite 500
Highland Park IL 60035