Most children learn to read in kindergarten, but you really have to teach them to love reading long before that. Starting at birth, parents can introduce reading to their children and set them up for success.
1. Read to them.
Read to your kids A LOT. Not just at bedtime, but all day. Read books, read signs, read labels. Show them that we are reading all the time.
2. Let them see you reading.
During a quiet moment, pull out a book or magazine and show them that even adults like to read for enjoyment. As parents, you are their first role models and if they see that you read, they will want to as well.
3. Introduce them to the library.
The library is an amazing place, almost magical to little kids. Show them how amazing it is that you can go to this huge building filled to the brim with books and pick out a few that you want to borrow. Visit the library together often and maybe get them their own library card. This will refresh your book collection at home and get them excited about visiting the library to get new books.
4. Have books in their room and at their reach.
Little kids love to flip through the pages and make up their own stories. This is a great way to build their imaginations and let them go on "picture walks" without even realizing they are doing it.
5. Have fun when you read.
Don't be that monotone teacher voice we all remember from Charlie Brown. Throw in an accent, overdo the emphasis on the punctuation, be dramatic! It doesn't matter whether you were a theater major or not, the kids will love it. If you make it fun for them to listen, they will want you to keep reading more and more.
6. Let them help you read.
Encourage interaction when you read to your kids. If there is a repetitive phrase or word in a story, encourage them to chime in. Books with predictable text or rhyming words are great, because you can often lead kids to helping you "read" the words on the pages. This will build their confidence and make it a fun experience for everyone.
7. Listen to audio books.
When you are driving, it is obviously not a good idea to be reading books to your kids. You can, however, let a book on cd read to them. It will have their (mostly) undivided attention and can introduce them to new ways to "read" stories.
8. Encourage books as gifts.
If you start the tradition of getting books as presents for holidays and birthdays, children will feel ownership and a sense of pride for their collections. Have people write a note and stick it in the cover so the kids can look back later and remember who gave them the story and why. This will give them wonderful memories and impressions.
9. Variety is key.
Have a variety of reading materials in the house: fiction and nonfiction books, magazines, dictionaries, paperback and hard cover books, picture books and chapter books.