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He can read! (sort of)

Charlie Julien, 4, of Greendale, WI, is quite a reader -- even though he can't sound out a single word yet. Instead, he loves to hold books, admire the pictures, and recap the plot points that he's memorized. His mom, Alison, cheers him on.

She's right to encourage him, says Naomi Goldstein, associate professor of psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia: Faux reading "turns book time into an active experience, where children participate in the storytelling," she says. Kids this age typically jump in by reciting a tale from memory or using the pictures to interpret the action.

Whichever method your child uses, keep him on a roll by asking him to "read" to you or his dolls while you make dinner or tend to a sibling (hand him a book he knows well so he doesn't get frustrated). Be sure to show that you're listening.

Continue to read together lots, too. Introduce him to new books regularly, and when you do, ask your child to look at the pictures and say what's going on in each scene. Sometimes you can point out each word with your finger as you say it aloud so he can start to learn how spoken words correspond to written ones. Before you know it, he'll be reading for real.