Readers 0-2

Getting ready to read starts on day one.

That’s because 80% of a child’s brain is fully formed by the time they’re three. To most of us, this can be overwhelming. We’re already so busy making sure our children are taken care of—feeding, clothing, and keeping them safe. And we’re not brain or child development specialists.

The good news is, we don’t have to be. We already have what it takes.

As our babies and toddlers are taking in the world around them, they’re also trying to play an active part in it. Videos like this one clearly show how babies as young as just a few months old try to grab their parents’ attention, even trying to cheer up their unsmiling mom or dad.

Our children—much earlier than most of think—can and want to interact with us. Even with babbling sounds, our children are trying to tell us things. They’re trying to take the lead when playing with us, and show us early on how they can already do things.

We just have to look out for cues from them. And once we do, we could be helping them not just mold their brains, but build their confidence, in exactly the right ways. And that’s what our children need the most from us to get them ready to become strong readers.

Life is full of teachable moments.  

What we do as parents and other loving grownups can make all the difference. And what we’re talking about doesn’t take extra money, or even more time.

Experts say little changes we make in our children’s lives can make really big changes in getting them to the read-by-4th the milestone. Some ideas:

  • Talk aloud. It may feel strange if you don’t already do this, but try describing out loud everything you do together as often as you can. Example: “Now, we’re going to put on your warm blue coat because it’s cold out today.”  
  • Try a conversation duet. Respond to what she’s saying, even her babbling. Ask questions like: “Really, then what happened?” Use your facial expressions and your words, like she does, to connect.
  • Doesn’t matter if you can carry a tune or feel a beat, sing and dance. Silly songs, nursery-rhymes, made-up ditties—they all help our children learn and get ready to read.
  • Play, then play some more. Whatever, whenever, wherever you play, give your children in-the-moment attention. Set up no-cell-phone zones during play time. Make your imaginations the best toy to share.
  • Repeat and celebrate. If your child wants to read the same book over and over again with you, it’s a clear sign he’s “reading” if just from memory, and gaining more confidence each time.
  • Get in the routine of packing your child’s favorite book and drawing material. Reading together is perfect for bus rides, waiting rooms, etc. Forgot to pack books? No worries. It’s a great time to make up stories and draw together.
  • For infants, especially teething ones, look for sturdy books. For them, reading is as much about holding, grabbing and even chewing on pages as it is about hearing words.

Whether you’re talking, singing, playing, drawing or reading together, try to stretch the time you have together—not just in minutes, but in the amount of attention you give.

Have a toddler who won’t sit still?

Try reading at times when they’re already sitting for another reason, during meals and snack time, or when you’re sitting together on the bus or train. Have her pick out the next book. Feel free to skip pages. Take her lead. Read the way she wants to. And be sure to mix quieter reading times with more rowdy play time during the day.  

Sign up for Ready4K

Ready4K is a research-based text messaging program for parents provided at no cost! Each week, you will receive fun facts and easy tips to boost your child’s learning. Most importantly, Ready4K activities build on the things that you already do with your child–like getting ready for school, eating meals together, and going to the store–making boosting your child’s learning fast, fun and easy. Sign up below!


Most of what we share comes from parents like you, so we welcome your ideas. Send us an email or call us »