How to Create Lifelong Readers

How to Create Lifelong Readers

To celebrate Picture Book Month, we are bringing back one of our past posts on making your child a lifelong reader. There are plenty of wonderful picture books out there to get your child started!  You might also check out our past posts on  how to help an older child who is having trouble reading or how to motivate another adult that you know (or yourself) to read more.

We hear a lot these days about the benefits of reading out loud to children. It can help them learn early literacy skills. Reading to your child also can provide a good way to share some positive time and focus your attention. And there are many more long-term benefits.

Is there a “right” way to read to your child?

Not really. But there are some tips that can help you get started and get the most out of reading with your child.

  • Start early. Even babies benefit from being read to. It helps develop language and vocabulary skills. Just remember that babies may only be interested for a few minutes and that is okay. Their attention spans will get longer as they get older.
  • Make a time to read. Try to choose a time when your child is calm and can focus on the reading. For some families, this is bed time. But some parents notice that reading at bed time can get their child too keyed up to go to sleep. If this is the case for your child, try to pick another time that works, like after an afternoon nap or before dinner.

If you are having trouble figuring out how you would fit time to read into a busy day, think about times when you are waiting (like at the doctor’s office or for the school bus) and consider reading then. Carry reading material with you so you can read to your child any time. You can even read them recipes while you are cooking dinner!

  • Have lots of materials available. Have a selection of different kinds of reading materials available including picture books about different topics. These can be fictional stories but also stories about history, science, even math and counting. As children get older, they can move to more complicated chapter books. But don’t stop with books! Graphic novels are very popular. And you can read magazines and newspapers with your child (just make sure the content is not too mature or scary). The wider the selection, the more likely that children will find stories and reading material that they like and will want to read for themselves.
  • Be willing to read, rest, repeat. Children get attached to the stories that they like so they may want to hear the same tale again and again. My children are now in their teens and pre-teens, yet I can still remember their favorite stories pretty much word-for-word. And it may sound like I am going back on what I said above about variety. But you can offer different types of reading material and still read and re-read the favorites. If your child has a favorite character who appears in multiple books, consider reading the series.
  • Comment on the story, words, pictures, even how you are reading. Talk to your child about the story. Ask her questions about what she thinks is going to happen. Point out interesting details in the pictures and ask him to do the same. Reading is much more than just saying the words in the story. It is also a process of noticing and understanding what the words are saying. Children also need to learn where they start to read and even how to hold the books, so you can comment on those things, too.

Overall, you want reading time with your child to be positive for both you and her. Try to pick a time when you are both calm and a comfortable space. Talk about how much you like to read and try to model reading even when you are not reading directly to your child. (More about how to do this even if you don’t really like reading in a future post.) You want your child to see reading as an enjoyable part of everyday life. This will help you to raise a strong, confident, lifelong reader!

Reading links to check out:

To get FREE books every month for your child who is aged 0-5, you can join Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library:

For information about Picture Book Month, happening this month:

For lists of books to read to children (and for children to read to themselves):

For lists of dual language books:

Image: © Reno12 |


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Katherine Pears
Dr. Katherine Pears is a senior scientist at Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). She earned her Ph.D in clinical psychology and has worked with OSLC since 1998. Katherine is the principal investigator and co-developer of the Kids In Transition to Schools (KITS) program. Currently, she oversees all the clinical and research activities for KITS. When she’s not in her office, you’ll find Katherine in the kitchen whipping up her latest creation or outdoors hiking a scenic trail.


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