7. Walk the Walk
One reason Fiona is drawn to reading is because she sees her parents doing it. "Our children like to model what we do," says Ciborowski Fahey. Want good readers? Make sure they see you reading--for yourself. It doesn't really matter if it's a magazine, a cookbook or a trashy novel.
8. Don't Push Too Hard
Most kids learn to read by 5, others at 6 or 7. Be cautious of educational systems that purport to teach reading prior to this time. "It's physiological," says Wolf. "The brain's parts are not yet integrated enough to pull everything together until age 5."
BONUS TIP: Playing word games and reciting poetry is great, unless it begins to feel like a drill. Look for signs of overstimulation. "They will cry, have a lack of eye contact or disorganized body movements," says Ciborowski Fahey. When this happens, it's time to give it a rest.
9. Have Fun!
The best thing a parent can do is make reading a joyful experience. Be silly, make up nonsense rhymes, play word games and sing songs. "Many parents teach their kids to read so they can go to Harvard," Shanahan says. "I've always seen it as an expression of love--a gift I've passed on to my children." And while there's nothing wrong with taking baby to the library for story hour, experts recommend this more social approach starting at age 3, when children have a better grasp of language and social skills.
Baby's First Library
Jean Ciborowski Fahey, Ph.D., is a pro at getting families to read together as the early literacy and research specialist at the national pediatric literacy group Reach Out and Read. Here are her picks for must-have books:
From Head to Toe by Eric Carle When your tot can't help but wriggle, the animals stomp, kick and wave, asking "Can you do it?" It's an excellent tool for teaching vocabulary in an active way.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown This 1947 classic has gentle rhymes that soothe babies to sleep.
Bonus: The illustrations will keep them entertained well into toddlerhood.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. Repeating a similar sentence structure-"Blue horse, blue horse, what do you see? I see a green frog looking at me"-allows toddlers to pipe in once they've memorized its cadence.
Tickle Tickle by Helen Oxenbury Bright illustrations and fun words ("scrub-a-dub") make story time entertaining and playful.