Building Blocks: Helping Your Child Become a Confident Reader

Learn about the power of Read-Alouds…

Experts tell us that children needs to hear 1,000 stories aloud before they can learn to read for themselves. Does this sound daunting? Anna Fehrenbacher has some tips on:

    • when and how to successfully read aloud to your child
    • how to move your child into reading independently
    • what happens when your young reader is struggling.



Reading aloud with your little one focuses on the relationship between you, your child and the book. Having the right environment set up will help ensure that this stays the primary focus.

  • Home Library

Create your very own home library with a wide variety of reading materials. Check out book sales, resources such as Buy Nothing Bainbridge, scholastic book clubs, magazine subscriptions, newspapers, recipe books, how-to books, and joke or riddle books.

  • Cozy Atmosphere

Make the environment one that makes you want to curl up with a good book. Pay special attention to the lighting, reading position, focal distance, and distractions. Make it a comfortable place to cuddle up together, this will help your child feel safe, happy and relaxed.

  • Opportunities to Read Aloud

It should be all about what works for your family. Children often do well when you have an established routine. Maybe you read after dinner or before bed? However, you can also advantage of those opportunities to read that come about organically. Try to always have a few books with you so if you are at the doctor’s office, ferry terminal, or out and about, you can make the most of a reading moment.

  • Read together as often as possible (at least once a day).
  • Three books a day is a good rule of thumb to get those “1,000 books” in.
  • Try reading one favorite, one familiar, and one new.


Babies and Toddlers:

  • Board books
  • Flap books
  • Simple non-fiction books that illustrate and label familiar things

Choose books with eye-catching illustrations and/or familiar characters, that give children the opportunity to interact with by pointing, touching and talking about the pictures. Talk about the book, point to the items in the book and name them. Give your reader the opportunity to point to and name items, too. When he or she is correct, give praise for his or her achievements.

Try asking open ended questions about what is going on in the pictures or text, i.e. “Why do you think that lion is sad?” Substituting the child’s name for that of a character in the book can be fun and keep your reader engaged.

At this stage books can simply be helping them understand that the marks on the page represent letters and words. Toddler readers will be building up a large vocabulary of words and learning how to use them. They will be making connections between the words on the page and the sounds that are associated with these marks.

Toddlers to Preschoolers

  • Durable books!
  • Books with repetitive phrasing
  • Books they like! Offer three to four books and allow them to choose the ones they would like to hear

Children at this age strive for independence so be sure to give them as much as you can, so they can be successful. Play games with the book while you read it – let the child turn the pages, interact with the pictures, make it a fun experience. Books with repetitive phrasing can be a great opportunity to encourage playfulness with language by letting the child finish sentences or encourage rhyming. (Rhymers will be readers!) If your child has a favorite book and he or she wants to read it every night for weeks – let it happen!

Be sure to interact with the story and the illustrations in books. Check for understanding often. Ask what the child notices in the illustrations. If you are reading a repetitive book, talk about a word that is repeated often, try discussing the letter it starts with and having them try to watch for that word. Be creative with your expressions as you read. Raise and lower your voice and try using different voices for different characters to bring the story to life.

Kindergarten and Beyond!

Continue the process of reading aloud with your kindergartener. They are continuing to learn and learning from different parts of the process. If you buy a five-year-old a picture book you read to him or her, at six – he or she is reciting the words and by nine, he or she will be reading it alone. Begin to navigate toward different genres of books and be sure to try out many! Consider family read-alouds of chapter books to encourage engagement.


  • Don’t Panic!
  • Continue to read aloud
  • Find joy in books

If you panic, they will panic. It is essential that you continue to make reading time fun and that you do not stress over your child’s reading. He or she may be missing basic letter sound concepts and more direct practice at home and school may be all that is needed to fill in the gaps. Talk with the teacher regarding your concerns. Ask to see assessments and get suggestions for how you can help at home.

Consider doing a choral reading, have your child choose a favorite passage in a book. Practice, practice, practice and then have them “perform” for you. After you have done some quality practice, make a recording of your child’s reading and listen to the performance together. then, repeat the process. If this or any other technique you are trying causes your child to stress about reading, then consider a different one. If he or she is is more comfortable listening to you read, then do a lot of that! It is important that they find joy in the process and hear regularly what fluent reading sounds like. The skills will come!


  • Read-alouds are a positive activity that strengthens the bond between the parent and child
  • They show the child that the parent values reading
  • Thanks to them, children grow in their understanding of the rules and sounds of language.
  • In the process, children develop a large vocabulary of words and the ability to use them.

What is the biggest thing that makes a read-aloud special? YOU!

 “If parents understood the huge educational benefit and intense happiness brought about by reading aloud to their children, and if every parent, and every adult caring for a child, read aloud a minimum of three stories a day to the children in their lives, we could probably wipe out illiteracy within one generation.”  Mem Fox, author of Reading Magic