Anna Grossnickle Hines                                                                            Home    Guide

Just a few minute a day can make all the difference...


Reading to your child for as little as
fifteen minutes a day from an early age
is the single greatest predictor
of success in school.

Reading to your child helps develop:

  • listening skills
  • vocabulary
  • ability to visualize and imagine
  • attention span
  • understanding of how words are put together
  • critical thinking
  • self-esteem
Reading time should be fun for you and your child.

Selecting books for various ages:
The following suggestions may be helpful in selecting books to share with children in various age groups.


  • Brightly colored pictures of simple objects
  • Simple texts and good rhythms
  • Wordless books
  • Board and cloth books


  • Mother Goose and nursery stories
  • Books about familiar objects and experiences
  • Slightly complex texts
  • Good rhythm and effective word repetition
  • Cumulative tales with repeated phrases


  • Picture books with strong story lines and character development
  • "Easy readers" for the child to read with you
  • Short novels with some complexity, familiar vocabulary and some challenging words
  • Informational books on topics of interest to the child
  • Folk and fairy tales
  • Humor and nonsense


  • Novels and informational books in areas of specific interest to the child
  • Sophisticated picture books

Lists of recommended books:

Good book lists can be found in many places.  Some places to start are suggested below. Your children's librarian or knowledgeable bookseller can also be helpful, but probably the best way for you to choose the right book for your child will be to browse the shelves in the library or bookstore. Try a variety and see which ones your child enjoys.

Though a book may be most appropriate at a given age, many children will respond to it at other ages as well.  For example, many of the board books for toddlers are also good for children just beginning to read because of the simple language and concepts, and the fact that they are so short and manageable. What is appropriate depends on the child.  While my two older children listened to me read Little House in the Big Woods and Winnie the Pooh when they were three and four, my third child preferred more pictures in her books until she was in school.  On the other hand the older girls, even as they got into their teens, enjoyed the picture books I brought home for their little sister.

The most important thing is to choose books both you and your child like.  If you start reading a book that one of you doesn't not enjoy, set it aside and choose another.  Encourage children to help choose books, too, especially as they get older.

Some books with good lists are:
Jim Trelease's Read Aloud Handbook
The RIF Guide to Encouraging Young Readers
Choosing Books for Kids, by Joanne Oppenheim, Barbara Brenner, and Betty D. Boegehold.
This one is very specific about the age of the child.

For my own favorites--as of the late 90's--see this list.

Or Look for lists online: Here are two:

Special Books to be Shared: Part of the Embracing the Child Site
Best Books: Links to numerous lists of award winning and recommended books.

Another way to find great books is to ask your favorite children's librarian!


  • Start early...six months is not too young to begin sharing books with a child. Keep the times short for the little ones. Let them help turn pages. "Talk" your way through the book.
  • Young children often want the same book read over and over. A story may be especially satisfying to a child emotionally at a particular time. The repetition helps children learn the pattern and structure of the story, and eventually, word recognition.
  • Take your children to the library and let them help select books to read together.
  • Most children learn to read in first grade...some earlier... some later. All are normal. Continue reading to your child even after he or she can read independently. Schools can teach the mechanics of reading; your goal should be to teach that it is fun. Read books that are slightly beyond his or her growing ability.
  • Try to have a regular time each day for reading, bedtime perhaps. Make it a time when the TV is off...whether the child chooses to listen to the story or not. Make sure everybody is comfortable. If you have a particularly wiggly child, try reading to him or her while he or she is in the bathtub.
  • Take advantage of other times to read as well; in the car on family trips, waiting in the doctor's office, or a restaurant, or during a break from another activity.
  • Encourage conversations about the stories you read. "What do you think is going to happen next?" "How would you feel or what would you do if this happened to you?" "Does this story remind you of any other story we've read?" Stick to conversation. Don't turn it into a test for "right" answers.
  • As children get older, read and discuss newspaper articles with them.
  • Let your children see you reading. Talk about what you read with them. Show them how you use reading to follow directions or prepare a recipe.
  • Since the majority of teachers of young children are female, it is very helpful for fathers to read to their children so that reading and school aren't associated just with women.
  • These tips and books are suggestions of places to begin. Adapt them to your child and his or her responses. Some very young children may enjoy longer, more complex stories, and some of the older ones still want picture books or humorous poetry. Read books that you and your child enjoy, whatever the age recommendations.
Remember the most important thing . . .
reading books together should be fun!

For more information on this important topic:

Read this... Why It's Important to Read to Children.

Check the Literacy, child development, and favorite read-alouds section in the Bookshop


Children's Book Council: Suggestions for  choosing books, new book lists, and more.

Children's Literature Web Guide: Lots of information about children's books including resources for parents.

Helping Your Child Become a Reader starts in infancy and this site from the US Department of Education has lots of helpful suggestions.  (English and Spanish available)

A Little Jingle  about the most important 20 minutes of your day!

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