Most of us know reading is fundamental to a child’s future success, but many parents aren’t told what they can (and should) do to help their child read.

The good news is, you’re probably already doing some great things for your child’s learning development without even knowing it–and we’ll help you get more out of these activities without adding to your workload.

Here are five principles for ensuring your child has a strong introduction to reading and is set up for school success — plus real-life examples to put these principles into action.

01 Make Them Feel Safe and Loved

A child learns best when he feels safe and loved. We have to make this the #1 priority because the most fundamental job, giving a child the love and attention needed to feel safe from the earliest days, provides the essential foundation for learning development.

Trust is the foundation of a child’s core development and everything is based on the sense of self that results from a strong core.

02 Build Vocabulary Through Play

A child’s language grows by leaps and bounds through playing with sounds. Make the learning of new words fun, and consistent, from the start. Talk about words and how they “work” helps, too.

Need help with this? Check out Abound’s Talk On and Word Up features to see how to put play into action.

03 Get the Most Out of Story Time

Build up a child’s knowledge through reading and talking about books. You’ll get more out of these talks if you relate them to your child’s experiences or engage them through imagining how a scenario could apply to them.

Check out the example below to see this in action.

04 Encourage Self-Regulation & Empathy

Creating routines and expectations at home help a child with self-regulation. This means they are better able to control their mind and body in a way that allows them to successfully take in the learning opportunities around them. They also need self/social awareness so they can see others’ perspectives and get along with peers.

05 Understand Their Strengths and Weaknesses

It’s critical to know enough about your child’s strengths and weaknesses to be able to support them at home. This also enables you to have discussions around their needs/advocate for them with pediatricians and teachers.

A Real-World Example

Here’s a book example explaining where our five activities to bolster reading fundamentals naturally fit into storytime. This example could work for children ages 3-8, depending on how engaged and interested the child is on any given day.

The Book

Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss.

Setting the Scene (Activity 01)

Sit together in a cozy place and enjoy the story! Talk about one or more of the following, but make sure it’s natural and not forced. You’ll probably have many opportunities to read this book, so don’t feel like you have to cram every suggestion into a single reading.

Learn Through Play (Activity 02)

Sound out and talk about the name Yertle – this will help build phonemic awareness, the ability to distinguish and manipulate sounds.

  • Why do you think Dr. Seuss named the turtle Yertle?
  • What if he wanted to choose a name with the /b/ sound? What would the turtle’s name be? (Bertle)
  • What name would you have chosen?
  • Often when words rhyme, they are spelled similarly. Look at the words turtle and Yertle. Are they the same? I wonder why Dr. Seuss didn’t spell Yertle with a ‘u’ like turtle?

Building Knowledge (Activity 03)

Talk about Yertle’s role as king – this will help build conceptual knowledge and encourage critical thinking. You’ll notice we start with the information in the book and then expand to a larger idea.

  • I was surprised to read that Yertle was “king of the pond.” Were you?
  • Does he look like the king of the pond on that very first page? Why/why not?
  • What do you think you will see when you see a king? Do you think turtles have kings? That’s a funny thing to think about, isn’t it?
  • Why would they need a king? What do kings do anyway?
  • Yertle seems to think that kings rule over what they can see. What do you think about that? I wonder why Yertle thinks that.

Get in Touch With Empathy (Activity 04)

Talk about how the other turtles feel – this will encourage Awareness & Regulation: in particular, building empathy and perspective-taking.

  • How would you feel if you were at the bottom of the pile? Do you think the other turtles felt like Mack did?
  • What do you think about the turtles who were close to the top? Let’s look at them and see what their faces show us.
  • How do you think the other turtles felt when Yertle fell into the pond?
  • In some ways, I felt sad for Yertle at the end. If he had just enjoyed his life in the pond from the start, he wouldn’t have ended up so miserable. How did you feel about Yertle at the end?

Challenge Your Child’s Thinking (Activity 05)

Highlight any vocabulary word that could get your child thinking differently or challenge him to think beyond the here-and-now. Being conscious of words and how words work builds vocabulary skills and kids love to think about and play with words so it’s great to do at any age. If they don’t seem interested today, try again with another word tomorrow.

  • Rights – That’s an interesting word Mack uses, actually. It’s not “right” meaning right or left, or “right” meaning correct. It means that the turtles should all have the power or freedom to act in a certain way.
  • People have rights. For example… (etc.).