Reading begins at home. As a parent you are the first and most important link on the road to reading. Enjoy stories with your child from a very early age. Even newborns can sense your enthusiasm when you read to them. Try to set aside a special time each and every day that you and your child can enjoy a number of books together without interruption. Your child will signal you when he or she begins to tire of this activity. Let this be your clue that story time has ended. It is probably best to let your child dictate the length of time spent reading and you will find that as the activity becomes standard, your child will sit and listen for longer periods of time.
Be sure and engage your child in conversations, for communicating orally is a prerequisite to understanding the written word. Encourage and ask questions like "Why?", "What would you have done?" or "Who was your favorite character?" from a book or television show.
Your child will have a lot of fun choosing books from the library or bookstore and will enjoy even the simplest of tales. Once your child begins to read independently, take turns reading to each other. This is also a great time to begin to read longer stories, perhaps a chapter or two a day. There are plenty of books out there that will keep them on the edge of their seats until the next reading session.
Be certain that your child has the opportunity to watch you enjoy reading. Don't save those newspapers, magazines or novels until after the little ones are in bed.
Your child will begin to read on their own timetable. They may be a "listener" longer than other children their age. Don't fret, they will begin to read when the time is right for them. Should you have a question about their reading ability, don't hesitate to ask your pediatrician or school personnel about early reading and literacy programs in your community. They may be able to suggest steps to take to further your child's reading abilities.
Don't be a prisoner of age related material. Use age suggestions as a guideline only. Even very young children can listen to and comprehend rather technical, scientific or historical books. Your child may be interested in dinosaurs or trains for example. Let them choose their books and read them over and over if necessary. If it is a subject dear to their heart, they will become a walking, talking encyclopedia on the subject!
Make a habit of giving children's books or magazine subscriptions as gifts. There are books and magazines for every interest and age group. If in doubt, a gift certificate from a book seller is a great gift for all ages.
Write your own stories! Even a child that cannot write yet can dictate a story to you. Keep a journal of these stories. They will make a wonderful keepsake and will bring back very special memories for you and your child. Encourage older children to keep a journal or diary. This not only allows them to perfect their writing skills but will help them relieve the stresses of everyday life. Ask relatives or out of town friends to correspond by mail with your child, not only do they get the thrill of receiving their own mail, they will enjoy reading their letters and best of all replying to them.
Playing word games is also a fun way to learn new words and develop a much larger vocabulary. Board games like scrabble and homemade games are excellent learning tools. Try playing rhyming games with your child when driving or walking. Think of a word and each of you take a turn thinking up words (real or imagined) that rhyme with it.
Get your child a dictionary. This will not only be educational but your child might even spend time reading it and discover lots of new words!
Always have a book with you! A short story is just the thing to pass the time when waiting in line, sitting at the doctor's office or picking up siblings from school.