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6 Little Things That Make a Big Difference

Read Stories Aloud

By the time your baby is about 6 months old, you can begin to help him acquire a love of books. Stories expose him to a more complex language structure than people usually use in conversation. By reading them aloud as often as possible, you can boost your baby's vocabulary and comprehension and expand his range of experiences. Just stop when he squirms on your lap or turns his face away.

When he's a little older, don't be surprised if he wants to hear the same books read over and over; toddlers learn through repetition and familiarity. He may also prefer to skip pages to get to his favorite picture or phrases, since many kids this age are less interested in the narrative than in absorbing certain pages that capture their imagination.

Once he's a preschooler, help him identify rhyming words and learn to recognize letters of the alphabet as you look at books together. Pause to ask questions, look at illustrations, and make connections between the story and what's going on in his life. Although his attention span has increased by this age, be prepared to digress completely if he wants to ask more questions or backtrack.

And once your child learns to read, continue to read aloud for as long as possible. Most kids, no matter what their age, enjoy the intimacy of having their parents' direct attention. Even after our five kids were all fluent readers, I remember they looked forward to the times when Larry read their favorite stories aloud.