How do you read to your child?

mother reading with child
You can help your child by gently drawing his attention to letters and words on a page.

[Updated] Reading story books to small children is fun, but did you know that the way you read can make a big difference in preparing your child to become a reader? Research has shown that pre-school age children had significantly improved early literacy skills when their teachers made specific references to print in the books as they read.

“Print-referencing” means using simple techniques to draw a child’s attention to the letters and words on a page, the concept that clusters of letters form words, that the letters are scanned from left-to-right, that the words have meaning. This activity is woven into the reading; the pictures on the page are also important to meaning and enjoyment of the read-aloud experience.

Ron Davis wrote that each word has three parts: what it means, what it looks like, and how it sounds. The parent who can convey that basic understanding when reading to a child will have gone a long way toward laying a strong foundation for reading. 

Research Update – E-Books vs. Print

A recent study shows that parents and their young children engage more during reading sessions with print books as compared to electronic books. Researchers looked at the frequency and types of interactions between parent and child, such as the parents asking toddlers questions, describing what they are seeing on the page, and encouraging the children to point out objects during the storytelling, Communication and collaboration was higher with print-book reading.

Research Citations:

Munzer, T.G., Miller, A.L., Weeks, H.M. et al. (2019). Differences in Parent-Toddler Interactions With Electronic Versus Print Books. Pediatrics. 143 (4) e20182012. doi:

Piasta, S. B., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A. S., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2012). Increasing young children’s contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child Development83(3), 810–820. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01754.x

This article was originally published on May 31, 2012 and updated with new information on November 30, 2019.