When should you start reading to your children?  I love to read and I absolutely ADORE children's books.  Therefore, I started reading all of the children's books to my son before he was even born.  Now that I'm pregnant with #2, I'm certain he hears all of the books as I read them to my son (and he too LOVES books).  In all seriousness, I would suggest reading to your child from day one.  Is he/she is going to understand the story in the beginning?  No.  He/she won't even look at the pictures.  However, hearing your voice is important in the beginning.  Your child will love to hear your soothing voice and listening as your voice goes up and down is a wonderful thing for him/her to experience.  Plus, this is the easiest time to read to your child since he/she is so still all the time!

The lists below are not exhaustive, but simply what comes to mind at the moment...

Reading is such a wonderful activity for children.  It doesn't matter if the child can read or not.  A pre-reader can get the following benefits from reading:
1.  Learning to have sustained attention to something that does not move or make noise (like the rest of the toys out there)
2.  Learning to focus on a 2-dimensional object rather than a 3-dimensional object
3.  Pointing to the pictures
4.  Naming pictures (you point and he/she can name them)
5.  Answering questions (ask your child questions about the story or simply what he/she sees on the page)
6.  Listening comprehension (see how much of the story your child remembers and understood)
7.  Morals (books usually have a lesson or a moral - talk to your child about it after the book is finished)
8.  Asking you questions about something they don't understand
9.  New vocabulary that the book introduces
10.  "Experiencing" something that your child may not have access to otherwise (i.e. you don't live near a beach, but you can read books about the beach)
11.  Memory (if a book is read enough times, your child will remember the flaps that lift or a favorite part, or when to laugh at the funny parts)
And some of the best things your child can learn is:
12.  How to turn the pages (yup... that's a skill that they learn)
13.  Holding the pages in the correct direction (again... that's a skill)

If your child can read, then allowing your child access to reading books is always important.  The old phrase is "practice makes perfect" for a reason.  If your child does not like to read (or claims not to like to read), then stay tuned to tomorrow's blog post for some ideas to get him/her reading in no time.  A child who is already reading can still benefit from books being read to him/her.
1.  Listening Comprehension (as apposed to reading comprehension)
2.  Listening to a book that is a higher level than he/she could ordinarily read
3.  Focusing on listening (especially if there are other distractions)
4.  Answering comprehension questions
5.  Vocabulary (especially if the book is harder than one your child could read, then new vocabulary words may be introduced)

READING IS SO IMPORTANT!  Even if your child wants to simply flip through the book and you can't read the words, then point out what he/she sees and ask questions about the pictures.

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