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The value of reading with young children is well documented. Beyond developing early language and literacy skills, reading increases children’s ability to understand the emotions of others – a critical life skill that leads to empathy and compassion. Parents can help support the development of these skills by being intentional with story time. In addition to making reading together a regular routine in your household, consider these age-specific tips and book recommendations to make the most of story time during the first five years of your child’s life.

Before Birth: During pregnancy, reading establishes voice recognition and promotes cognitive development in babies. The rhythm and melody of voices serve as the prenatal foundation for language. Choose rhythmic stories with cadence, warm tones or repetition – repetition leads to recognition! Primrose suggests: “How Do I Love You?“ by Marion Dane Bauer or “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom “ by Bill Martin Jr.

Birth – Age 1: Reading books should be a favorite bedtime activity at this age. With daily “tuck-in” stories and snuggling together at bedtime, infants begin to associate reading with comfort, warmth and security. Sturdy board books with bright illustrations are easiest to handle and invite participation. Books with familiar subjects, such as babies and animals, resonate since babies respond to faces and eyes before other stimuli. Primrose suggests: “Peek-a Who?” by Nina Laden or “Counting Kisses” by Karen Katz.

Ages 1 – 3: Reading a wide variety of stories helps toddlers build vocabulary and understand story sequencing. A sequence of events that is both interesting and understandable helps children identify with a book. Ask lots of questions, act silly and try out different character voices to make reading dramatic and engaging. Vivid illustrations, along with rhyming and repetitive text, will encourage lively dialogue. Primrose suggests: “Book!” by Kristine O'Connell George or “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle.

Ages 4 – 5: Preschoolers should be encouraged to discover the magic of books for themselves. Books can help young children understand their own feelings when characters face similar life events, so pick topics they may be curious about. Also introduce new genres and topics, and more complex story structures for them to explore. Primrose suggests: “The Red Book” by Barbara Lehman or “A Splendid Friend, Indeed” by Suzanne Bloom.
Parents also can help extend children’s learning during story time by following the READ acronym, which was developed by the teacher training arm of the Atlanta Speech School – the nation’s most comprehensive center for language and literacy:

  • Repeat books three to five times. Discuss the story, characters and new vocabulary in each book.
  • Engage in and enjoy reading, using different voices for the characters to bring each story to life.
  • Ask “why” questions, letting your child share his ideas about the story.  
  • Do more with the book. Reinforce the story through related activities.

To learn about Primrose School of Prestonwood, visit or call 469-791-9131. For more helpful parenting tips and information, visit our blog at and sign up for the Pointers for Parents newsletter.