Early Reading Milestones

All my baby does is eat the book, we’ll start reading when she’s older.

My son tears every book he’s given. He’s just not ready to read.

Every time we sit down to read, my toddler gets up and plays with her trucks.


These are many of the conversations I have had with parents when we talk about reading. Babies drool on books, toddlers write all over them, or my infant can’t really understand what I’m reading so why bother?

One of the biggest predictors of school success is the size of vocabulary a child has by age three. Reading, singing and playing every day for at least 20 minutes provide the foundation for learning a child needs for the rest of her life.

We all want that kodak moment reading time together, and like much of parenting that isn’t real life.

Don’t wait to build a reading routine

The first way I gauge the reading life of a child when I work with them is by giving them a book and seeing how they hold it. Children who have been read to, even at young ages like two, will recognize if the book is upside down or backwards. A child who hasn’t been read to often, will flip the pages upside down or backwards through the book.

A child isn’t born knowing how to hold a book

From birth, we can read to our child. It doesn’t even matter what we read, all the baby cares about is hearing our voices. Yet, a lot happens in the infants brain when we read together. Synapses and neural pathways are created for the sounds heard. The patterns and pictures on the page stimulate their brains and engage their visual centers. Older infants will even coo and babble in response to what we read. Our children, through our modeling have learned to hold and turn pages in a book. A developmental milestone at this stage is reaching for the book, putting it in his mouth, and even using it to bang around. Hey, these books don’t come with instruction manuals! All those signs point to a child engaging with the book, that must be where “devouring books” comes from.

Use those fingers for more than holding the book

While you read, be sure to point out the words on the page, or the pictures that accompany the words. Name what you see, not just what is in the text. All of that helps the child connect the letters on the page with the pictures. They won’t be able to read a book yet, but they know those squiggles and lines mean something! As they develop, you will soon see them mimicking you by pointing at the words as they “read” the book. A great sign that all that quality time worked.

They aren’t going through adolescence at 18 months, they hear you

Toddlers love to boogie. They love to run and move and drive us up the wall with all that activity. There are days where they sit on your lap for stories and are soon zooming around the room playing trucks.

Most days, it is fine to call a time-out on the reading and pick it back up when all their sillies are out. Other days, you’ll stop reading and even though they are on the ground playing with their doll, your son might look up and ask, “Why’d you stop?”

Kids listen, even when they aren’t looking. How many times have we discovered that when we say a word we shouldn’t have and they repeat it? Pay attention to their cues and decide whether to postpone or continue reading on. I promise you, it won’t be like reading to a wall.

My daughter’s a genius, she’s reading all by herself at 4

While that is most certainly true, I’d hold off calling Mensa just yet. Children who have been read to have favorite books and they want those books to be read to them again and again and again

and again

and again.

In fact, just when you are about to hide the copy of Llama Llama Red Pajama, they will switch gears and Skippyjohn Jones will be their new favorite.

The great thing about all those repeat readings? They learn the story. Sure, they can’t actually read the words, but they know how the story starts, the problem in the middle and how the story ends. All skills they will be grateful for when they are in highschool and have to write a paper about the theme of Bartleby the Scrivener.

You should congratulate yourself when you get to this point. You have stuck to the reading routine even when you thought you couldn’t tell Marvin K Mooney to go home one more time.

You have not reached the read aloud end

Your child has been reading Fly Guy on repeat all by herself. He devours any book you give him, and that no longer means he literally eats the pages. Your child is an independent reader. Now you can sit back, relax and read your TBR pile that is about to collapse on top of you.



Kids at any age will receive the benefits of reading aloud. For elementary age kids, it will be fun to trade reading back and forth. For your sully teenager, it will give you a chance to talk without a scowl, eyeroll, or scoff. Keep reading. It builds relationship, maintains relationship, and reminds you of all the hard work you’ve accomplished for the past decade.


For More Information on Literacy Milestones

Literacy Milestones Reading Rockets

Reach Out and Read Literacy Milestones Chart


How much do you enjoy the reading time together? Then read even more.

Dr. Needleman, Co-Founder Reach Out and Read

Reading aloud should never stop

When my kids were toddlers and preschoolers we literally spent hours a day reading. First thing in the morning, right after lunch, after naps, before dinner, and as a getting ready for bed routine. We were a read aloud family.

As the kids get older it is harder to keep up with the routine. First my oldest started reading independently and then soon after her brother followed and my youngest will still hand us books to read but as she becomes a more confident reader the read aloud routine is sporadic at best.

I know the research that shows reading aloud benefits all ages. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, school age kids, tweens, teens and yes, even adults.

“The first reason to read aloud to older kids is to consider the fact that a child’s reading level doesn’t catch up to his listening level until about the eighth grade,” said Trelease, referring to a 1984 study performed by Dr. Thomas G. Sticht showing that kids can understand books that are too hard to decode themselves if they are read aloud. “You have to hear it before you can speak it, and you have to speak it before you can read it. Reading at this level happens through the ear.”

Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook.

Retrieved on 10-11-17 from https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/05/14/why-reading-aloud-to-older-children-is-valuable/

Read aloud tips for older kids:

  • A level or two above their own reading level. This helps mature reading comprehension and vocabulary.
  • Give them something to do with their hands while you read. Coloring books, Legos, knitting, drawing, it doesn’t matter what, as long as their hands stay busy their minds and ears stay open.
  • Make it a family event. Turn off phones and the TV. Make it part of the bedtime routine or after dinner routine or even in the morning. Find a time that works for your family.

It does become challenging the older our kids get to find time to read together. Sports, homework and extracurricular activities overtake the evenings and weekends, but there isn’t a better gift you can give your children then reading together as a family.

Copy of Building Future Reader's Read Aloud List for Big Kids


More Resources

Check out the Read Aloud Revival podcast for read aloud tips

Look for the read aloud classic and find book lists at  Jim Trelease’s Website

Common Sense Media: 10 Amazing Books to Read Aloud to Big Kids

Common Sense Media: 10 Reasons You Should Read Aloud to Big Kids Too

What are your favorite chapter books to read with older children? Post in the comments section to share ideas.


Happy Reading!

A Storytime Primer for Parents

When I worked as a children’s librarian, my favorite part of the week was planning storytimes for a local Head Start school. I would sit on the floor of the children’s area and sift through the shelves looking for a theme and fun books to complement it.

But I didn’t stop there, because the theme was only to get the kids interested in the books, the real learning was happening through the choices I made about the books I read.

So how does a librarian plan a story time?

It starts with a theme. Themes can be about a topic like moving or first day of school or beach days. It could be colors or shapes. I once had a teacher ask me to do a storytime on positional words like Over, Under, Above, Below. That was a challenging storytime to prepare.

Once I have chosen a theme, I start to assemble books. Story times and attention spans of preschool children usually last about 30 minutes. Three or four books, with songs and rhymes in-between will fill the time quickly. So with so few minutes, how did I make the most of the stories I read?

Focus on the Six Pre-Literacy Skills

With all the choices of books out there and so little time, after I settled on a theme, I chose what of the six skills I would highlight that week.6prereadingskills

This part is for the kids, but they will never know it. These six skills are the building blocks for future reading success. When I introduce the book, I will say a line about the skill highlighted in the book and a quick sentence about why it is important. That is for the teachers and the parents and the caregivers. The kids only need to know they are in for a great book.

After the theme and books are chosen, I then choose the order I read the books in.

When reading to kids, order matters

With active bodies and imaginations, storytimes need to be kept short. I always start the storytime with the longest book. If you try to read the Little Engine Who Could at the end of a story session you will have chaos on your hands. So start with the longest book first and end with the shortest.

After the order is chosen, find songs and rhymes to go along with them.

This is a great way to get the kids wiggles out

Kids are made to move. Sitting and listening to story after story is hard. So make the most of your time and take short breaks to get those little bodies moving. Fingerplays are a great way to involve the kids in the story time and get their attention back. (Fingerplays are poems/songs like where is thumbkin) Playing music and having them follow your dance is also a great way to get them back in a listening mood. Sing a song, repeat nursery rhymes, whatever you can dream up for a quick break between books will be appreciated by the young listeners.

Those are the building blocks of a story time, so let’s see the theory in practice.

Preschool Story Time Sampler


The theme as you can tell is messes! These books I chose because of the unique vocabulary, the strong narratives, rhyming words, and the fun pictures that build print motivation. The last book, I ain’t gonna paint no more is a show stopper because it can be sung to It Ain’t gonna rain no more.  All of the books encourage interaction with the kids and fun conversations. Songs that could be used with this storytime are Laurie Bernker’s Victor Vito, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, and the nursery rhyme humpty dumpty. I always began and ended my storytimes with the same opening rhyme and the same ending rhyme. It gives the kids a sense of order and completion to their time at the library.

Now, I am not suggesting that parents create a show-stopping storytime for their loved ones each night, but it may help you break through a reading rut with your child or find a new way to explore stories together.














(I am an amazon affiliate member, if you click on a picture it takes you to Amazon, where if you make a purchase I get a small percentage of the proceeds. I am not paid to review any particular books and the opinions are all mine.)

Author Interview: Michael Samulak

I am excited to interview a fellow Cleveland Author! I had the opportunity to meet Michael Samulak at our school book fair. I appreciated his education background and how he uses that knowledge to empower the books he writes. The inspiration for his book A is for Africa came while he was on a mission trip to Uganda. He met a local artist who he collaborated with to create his alphabet book. I emailed questions to Mr. Samulak, which he graciously took time out of his busy schedule to answer.

I will review both of his books: A Wonderful Day! and A is For Africa. Please check back throughout the week for the book reviews!

Give a Building Future Readers welcome to Michael Samulak, our first author visit!

What makes you fall in love with a children’s book and how do you incorporate those techniques in your own writing?

A book that can I connect with on a deeper level is what I would have to say brings me to a level that I would call – love.  Pink and Say, by Patricia Polacco comes immediately to mind.  When feelings and connection flow so easily through you as a reader I believe you have a real winner.  Nothing is forced.  Nothing has to be explained.  Everything is just all there: ringing real and true within.

Now, incorporating such magic into my own writing is the challenge.  Writing a story that is perfectly balanced between mechanics and content while at the same time connects instantly with the reader – well, wherein lies the recipe for perfection, does it not?

I suppose I do what I can to write what is precious and real to me, from the heart.  If I cannot connect or be moved by my own work, I find it hard to believe that this would be happening with others who would pick it up.

Who are your favorite picture book authors? Why do you like him/her?

To pick favorites is almost unfair to ask.  I feel so many authors are masters in their own respects.  Their books can be vastly different, but still something I treasure equally.  That being said, I suppose I am a big fan of Patricia Polacco and Tomie dePaola probably for many of the same reasons I stated earlier concerning lovely books and finding love for a book.  I found both of these two authors early on in the days of my studying to be an early childhood educator.  Speaking to making connections and provoking literacy with early readers, I feel that both of these two are master storytellers who engage their young readers, (heck me!) in a way that swallows you up whole and transports one right into the narrative.  I would love to be able to say that I could one day, as I feel they do, fill page after page with emotion and heart that keeps one engaged till the very last period of the very last sentence: Truly, masters of the trade.

What do you hope your readers and listeners will find in your books?

a-wonderful-dayTheir world, their interests, depicted in a way that they not only connect with, but also affects them personally on many levels.  I love to help young readers along their literacy journey, utilizing my formal education in reading and teaching to blend content and presentation together in a way that is at their level and fun, funny, well written, and it has to be from their world (that is, their perspective and needs are attended to).  One of the best ways that I know how to help a young person to fall in love with reading is to give them stories that they are interested in.  I try to write not only in a way that is engaging, but also have my content be about something that they can relate to or that they care about.  A lot of my books are laced with learning moments that do aid emerging readers in becoming better readers, but the content is purposefully aimed at that same young readers’ interests and current real world experiences.

How do you hope parents use your books with their children?

I hope they read with them.  Interact with them.  Ask them questions and engage with them beyond the text so that young readers gain a full experience of reading.  I hope my books are loved and read, but I also hope that they enlarge and enrich the overall reading experience of those who read them to be more than words, more than the black and white that is immediately in front of them; that they grow and learn that there is a full and rich experience to reading that the reader is meant to have, and ought to have, while reading.

Is there a picture book you wish you had written? Why?

I think I can honestly say no to this question.  I feel that we all have our unique stories that are to be known and enjoyed by the world.  These come from unique experiences and people that basically I feel cannot be duplicated.  I so appreciate those who have been able to put their stories out for all of us to enjoy, but those are not my stories.  I have my own stories to tell, as I believe we all do, and so have learned to simply love, enjoy, grow from and appreciate that which has come forth from others.

What is your best tip for parents to help build future readers?

Be involved in your child’s literacy journey.  Read to them.  Speak with them about what you read, engage them with the text; help them make connections to their hearts and minds.  Talk with them about what you are reading, what you enjoy from what you are reading, what you find difficult about reading.  Let them see and know that you too are a reader and how much of an important part reading and literacy overall is to a happy and successful life in this world.

Make it practical and personal: Take them to the library.  Buy them books – and you buy one with them.  Have a reading party and talk together as a family over cookies or popcorn about what you have been reading.  What made you laugh, what made you cry – Why?  Have a family library that they also contribute to every year.  Signing them up for long-term subscriptions to an age-appropriate magazine is always a great way to build a future reader: Who doesn’t like getting something in the mail with their name on it!

I feel that we learn very early on what our parents and adults truly ascribe value to:  what is taking our time, our money, our hearts?  Our children see it – They know it.  Reading has to be one of those things.  It takes a real conscious effort on our part to make sure that our children not only hear from us the value and need for reading, but also practically see it and know it to be more than words in our own lives and how we would practically bring literacy into theirs.

Are you working on any new projects?

Short answer: Yes indeed.  I have been working on a few pieces so that I can hopefully present to an agent who is willing to take me on and work with me as I step further on in the next chapter of this beautiful journey I have been on as a writer.  I’ve have been trying to branch out with these new projects to touch not only the early readers and Children’s Picture Books that I am comfortable with, but also a few that are a bit risky in that they attempt to address issues and matters that children today are having to face or deal with, such as the loss of a loved one.  I don’t want to say too much more here…spoil the soup that’s cooking and all, ya know!

Anything else you would like us to know?

I am a husband and father of five children.  They are my world.  So much of what I write about is inspired by them, and for them.  My books are a sort of extension, not just of me, but also of my family and so I hope that when people read my works they touch that, they feel that, and come to realize that it is more than stories but also a bit of me and my own family that is hiding behind those words.

Connect with Michael Samulak

(I am an Amazon Affiliate. I do not get paid to review books. The opinions are mine. However, if you click on the pictures it will take you to Amazon, where if you make purchases I will receive a percentage of the sale.)

Do you have any questions for the author? Post in comments below.


Book Review: Bear and Duck by Katy Hudson

Ages 3-5

Bear doesn’t want to be a bear anymore. He is tired of missing winter, being uncomfortable in the summer and being chased by bees when he finds food. He discovers a flock of ducks and tries to fit in. No matter what he does he can’t become a duck. One of the group decides to help bear out and show him how much he is appreciated exactly as he is. Bear may not be able to become a duck but he can be a great friend.

Children will relate to wanting to be something they are not or feeling like they don’t fit in. The topics tackled in this gentle read are feelings all children understand. This book encourages PRINT MOTIVATION because of the universal theme of wanting to be something we are not. The VOCABULARY is strong in the book. Words like chimed, growled, circumstances to name just a few. There will be lots of words your child won’t have heard in everyday conversation.

The flow of the book will help introduce PRINT AWARENESS. There is the traditional text and a list of rules which will help a child learn to follow along. It is done in a way that doesn’t take the reader out of the story but compliments it instead. NARRATIVE SKILLS will also be built reading this book together. There is a strong story line of how the bear feels at the beginning of the story, his challenge, how he attempts to overcome the challenge and what he learns about himself in the process. It is a complicated storytelling thread that is made approachable to the youngest of readers.

What skills your child will learn:


Questions to ask while reading:

  1. Have your child name the animals on the front cover. What sounds do each of the animals make? What do they eat? Where do they live?
  2. Flip the book over and look at the back of the book. How do you think the Bear and Duck feel about each other?
  3. Open the book and look through the pictures. Ask the child to tell the story or if unable to you tell the story just through the pictures. Then start at the beginning and read the book. Do the pictures and words tell the same story?
  4. Why do you think the bear doesn’t want to be a bear anymore? Do you ever feel like you the bear does?
  5. After reading the story look again at the pictures. Focus on the bear’s faces and ask the child how you think the bear feels. Have your child mimic the expressions.

Take the story further:

  1. Have your child name their favorite animal. On paper, write down the “rules” for being that animal. What do they eat? Where do they sleep? How do they move?
  2. Talk about feelings. Part of developing reading comprehension is being able to draw concepts from the words on the page. Have your child draw pictures of different faces and have them explain how the face feels. See if your child can match the expressions to some of those that the bear feels.
  3. Act like a duck! Take the list of rules and see how well you and your child can act like a duck. Talk about what was easy and hard about each of the rules. What other animals can you act like?

What else have you done to enhance your reading experience today? Comment below and share ideas.


By clicking on the image at the top of the post you will be directed to Amazon. I am an affiliate and make a small profit if you purchase items using the link. The profits go to support our family’s reading habit.