Here are five ideas for getting young children involved with books at every stage:

The authors of Raising a Reader say infants benefit from hearing you read. It can be anything—a children’s book, the back of a cereal box, the book you’re reading, this blog post. The important piece is that you, the parent, read directly to your child. Turning on the TV or playing an audio book is not the same thing. They recommend you make eye contact with your baby while reading to them and see if you can engage them to make sounds about what you’re reading.

Holding books, even when they can’t yet read the words, helps children become engaged with reading. For babies, a book with textures can be a good idea. Sturdy board books are designed to be handled by toddlers—and you can ask the toddler to point out pictures as you read the book together.

Many parents read at bedtime, but any time is a good time to read with your child. They not only respond to the story and learn about words on the page, but they enjoy and remember the time you spend with them doing it. That emotional bond they feel with you also helps them have good feelings about reading and books.

Children may interrupt the story to ask questions or talk about a character. That can be a good sign because it shows your child is engaged in the story. If your child seems a little bored by the story you’re reading, maybe you can ask some questions. Talk about the picture on the page and what they see or ask what they think might happen next.

Maybe you let your toddler choose which of two books you’ll read to them. Or maybe you take your young child to the library and let them pick a book to check out. It’s a good idea to ask children which stories they like best and why, so you can find more books that will appeal to them.

Free books for families

One way parents can add to their selection of books at home is to sign up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. This program mails a free book every month for a year to any child aged 5 and under. All families at every income level are eligible. Learn more and sign up here

Free Raising a Reader guide

Find a free version of How to Raise a Reader here

Parents are told all the time that helping children read is one of the most important things they can do for their child’s education. But how does a new parent with a baby or a parent with a toddler who won’t sit still use this advice?