Inner West Council

Reading with your child

Sharing Stories

Children who have been engaged in reading activities regularly in a fun, low key environment since they were babies learn to read more easily when they get to school or even learn to read themselves before they go to school. Research has even shown that these children not only have significantly improved literacy rates but also numeracy rates.

Reading to a child, in itself, is not sufficient for maximum literacy growth. The way you engage with your child, the style of the reading, the interactions and talk that occur around the story are the critical factors that influence the gains that may be made in literacy development.

Some tips to promote engagement:

  • Helping the child to perceive the emotions of the characters
  • Adding inferences
  • Responding emotionally to the text, e.g. surprise, sadness or joy
  • Responding as an adult reader
  • Using facial expressions to convey meaning
  • Using pitch, stress and juncture to heighten meaning
  • Using expression when reading dialogue and accentuating the characterisation which will help to carry the plot
  • Briefly commenting on events such as, ‘oh no, don't go...', ‘he looks angry', and ‘I wonder what he is going to do?'
  • Helping children to take on the role of the characters by asking questions such as, ‘would you open the door if you were the little pig?'
  • Helping children to learn how to empathise with the characters by making comments such as, ‘gosh he's lucky'
  • Showing anticipation by asking, ‘I wonder what...?' at a place where this question is really significant to the narrative
  • Linking illustrations to the text
  • Referring to a part of the text if it contains an answer to a child's question by using the language of the text

The way we share books with our children greatly influences their developing vocabulary and creates an understanding of the diversity of written language. It is never too early to start reading to your child, or too late,  you can start today.

Selecting a Story

An important key to successfully sharing a story lies in the selection of the story. Choose stories that you enjoy yourself. If you choose a story that you personally find boring and pointless, why would your child like it?!

Choose a story that is of the appropriate reading level.

  • Babies love to look at, large colourful and clear illustrations, few words and make it fun - If you can sing to it or make a rhyme even better.
  • Toddlers are tactile learners, they want to touch and feel and chew - Find a lift a flap, chew friendly book, books about babies and other toddlers are always a hit.
  • For Preschoolers, stories that have good openings that set the scene straight away are good to use. Stories with familiar scenes are good to gain the attention, and action helps to build up excitement and anticipation. Repetitive and rhyming stories allow the child to anticipate and join in. Participation is great to foster enjoyment and helps you stay in control. Be aware as you read, of the attention or lack of it, and adjust what you are doing accordingly.

All parents are welcome to visit the Library to discuss story selection with the Children's Librarian. You can also access book lists and new title reviews from your Library.

Literacy and Language Development

Rule No. 1: Always talk to your child

Children need to hear normal conversational language spoken in order to learn to speak fluently. Kindergarten vocabulary is the biggest predictor of school success. Talk to your child even if they don't talk back yet. Keep a running dialogue of your life, the more words your child hears at a younger age the greater their ability to learn new things later on in life.

We are lucky our community speaks a diverse array of languages other than English; this is great and allows us to broaden our ear. Take the opportunity to join the bilingual storytime at your library, even if your child does not speak the language they will be actively learning the skills to absorb new sounds and build vocabulary. UWS Research with the Fairfield Library has proven a child fluent in their first language will learn a second fluently in 3 months!

Rule No. 2: Sing with your child

Singing is an important part of literacy and language development. Singing demonstrates a different use of the voice from either conversation or reading. The good thing about singing to small children is that they don't care whether you can sing well or not, they love it!

Singing helps children to learn about rhythm and rhyme which is foundational in learning mathematical concepts. You can use simple musical instruments i.e. shakers and rattles or even clapping to help them learn about rhythm. Songs can also be used to learn about emotions and feelings and to calm down or pep up children. For example ‘If you're happy and you know it' or ‘Rockabye your bear'. If you don't know a lullaby, visit your library!

Rule No. 3: Play with your child

For children play is work. Little brains are charging along building new synapses with every new experience, and the more they repeat it the stronger it becomes. Finger plays and rhymes help children to develop their gross and fine motor skills, think of ‘Incy wincy spider' and how much concentration goes into getting the spider up the water spout. Finger plays also reinforce the learning of simple physical concepts, counting and names of body parts etc as well as learning how language works in a fun way. Think of the song ‘Heads and shoulders, knees and toes', it is a ‘me' oriented learning exercise for a baby or toddler.


This is not ... about teaching a child how to read; it's about teaching a child to want to read."
Jim Trelease The Read-Aloud Handbook, p.xiii



This information is based on research and professional reading, if you wish to discuss any of the ideas or concepts further, please contact the Children's Librarian on 9716 1827.