Reading Strategies for Birth to Five Years

Content provided by Susan Cohn & Associates and Elliott Bay Speech and Language Therapy

By Danielle Barber, M.S., CCC-SLP March 13, 2018

As a speech-language pathologist, I am passionate about LANGUAGE. How do children learn language? Through exposure. What is one of the best ways we can boost our children’s exposure to language? Through books! The national literacy campaign Read Aloud 15 Minutes shares this critically important message: Research shows that reading aloud is the single most important thing you can do to help a child prepare for reading and learning. I love these words because this vital work is DO-ABLE! On that note, let’s talk books!

It is never too soon to start cracking open books with your little ones. In the early stages, it’s not so much about what you are reading, but HOW you are reading. Babies will connect with the intonation in your voice, the rhythm of your sentences and the emotion behind your words. Bilabial sounds (sounds made with your lips touching, such as /p, b, m/) are typically the first to develop, so choosing books heavy on “mama”, "papa” and “baby” can encourage some great imitation. 

For children between one and two years, point to words and pictures in the book. You can ask simple questions like “Who’s that?” and “What are they doing?”. Around three to four years of age, focus on pre-academic skills like numbers and letters. Point out letters within words and see if you can find that letter/sound in other words. You can say things like, “Snake starts with letter ‘s’ and makes a ‘sssss’ sound. Oh, look! I see an ‘s’ in the word star too! I hear the ‘sssss’ at the beginning of star!”. Rhyming books are also especially fantastic because we know that rhyming skills are a predictor of later reading ability. 

As children reach age five, help them notice the parts of a book like the cover, the title, author and illustrator. Use the title and the illustrations on the cover to make predictions about what the book might be about. Continue to support their growing minds by pausing to ask more complex questions while reading such as “What do you think will happen next?” and “Why did he do that?”. 

Given all of this information, it is important to remember that each child is unique and will develop at their own pace. As a parent, YOU are the expert on your child, and you are the best person to know when your child is ready for these strategies. If you have concerns that your child may not be meeting speech or languages milestones as expected, talk with your pediatrician or a speech-language pathologist.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association shares that when you read aloud to a child you are giving them more vocabulary, an understanding of how books and reading work, knowledge about the world and people, food for the imagination, memories of your special time together and a love of reading and learning that will last a lifetime. I wholeheartedly agree. Time to go dive into a good book! 

This information was provided by  Danielle Barber, M.S., CCC-SLP of Elliott Bay Speech and Language Therapy and Susan Cohn and Associates.

If you would like to learn more about the SUSAN L. COHN & ASSOCIATES TEAM, you can click here.


710 NW Juniper Street Suite 108 

Issaquah WA 98027