One of the most important things parents can do to prepare their children for school is to read to them. The number of words a child knows upon entering kindergarten is a key predictor of future success, and the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that parents read aloud to babies starting at birth to build pre-literacy skills in the earliest years. And as children grow, reading aloud and talking about pictures in age-appropriate books strengthens their emerging language skills and literacy development. And the resulting closer parent-child bond boosts a child’s social-emotional development.
Researchers have found that children learn best when allowed to actively participate and respond when adults read books to them. The National Association for the Education of Young Children says engaging young children when reading a book involves three different types of activities. First, create curiosity about the book by talking about the cover and asking questions about it even before starting to read it. Second, ask questions during the story to keep youngsters interested, like asking them to describe how a character might feel or to predict what might happen next. Third, ask questions after finishing the story to allow children to discuss and respond to it. Ask if they can think of an alternate ending or connect the story with something that has happened in their own life.
So where to start? A quick Google search will turn up numerous lists of recommended books for specific age groups; here is Parents magazine’s Best Books for Babies:
Pat the Bunny by Edith Kunhardt Davis
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman
Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? by Dr. Seuss
Toes, Ears & Nose! by Marion Dane Bauer
Mrs. Mustard's Baby Faces by Jane Wattenberg
C Is for Coco: A Little Chick's First Book of Letters by Sloan Tannen
Baby Faces by DK Books
Belly Button Book by Sandra Boynton
White on Black by Tana Hoban