Raising a Reader

Preparing your child for a lifetime of success starts at the library

The benefits of reading have been long-touted among parents and educators; increased ability for vocabulary, analysis, self-expression and emotional maturity among them. Yet even amidst discussions of these later accomplishments, the true imperative of early literacy may be overlooked. The truth is, no time is too soon to introduce a child to reading, or to the library.

Early exposure to literacy builds the foundation for subsequent achievement, but the advantages of a language-rich childhood are observable as quickly as that first educational milestone, kindergarten. Indeed, literacy skills displayed at this age often predict a child’s later reading success, an indication so vital that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) considers early childhood literacy a matter of national health. For this reason, early literacy development should not be seen as a mere advantage, but rather as a necessity for your child. Literacy promotion, AAP policy declares, is “an essential component of pediatric care.”

The Fauquier County Public Library agrees. Raising a reader can be a source of fun for parents and children alike. Between simple at-home practices and the resources available at FCPL, you and your child will find plenty of support at any stage in their development. See our guide below for reading at all ages so you may embark on childhood literacy.

Infants to age 3

Babyhood is the time for parents to craft a literature-positive atmosphere at home. Make reading a regular and instinctive activity to model the behaviors you want to see in your child. Read aloud and read anything: baby books, novels, emails, recipes, shopping lists. The exposure to language is what’s important. Remember to speak directly to your child. This is the prime age of board books and fabric readers, so let your baby handle the books for a further sensory response and engage them in the act of reading itself.

Picture books for ages 2 to 8

Picture books introduce longer stories, favorite characters, and new ideas through language and illustration. These books are intended to be read to, not by, your child, so take the opportunity to make this a cherished activity for the both of you. Encourage off-page conversations about what they see and hear. Children will start to develop their own tastes in books, so foster their interests while promoting a diversity of subjects and authors. Talk to a children’s librarian or attend a story time for more ideas is to talk to a children’s librarian or attend a story time at your library. Or, if your schedule conflicts, take a “Story Time to Go” pack home with you. Each of these packs provides a specific theme, an activity sheet and an assortment of books. Look on the label for Toddler and Preschool selections. Also a “Box of Books,” a unique library resource, contains a collection of 50 picture books and is perfect for travelling. Both “Story Time to Go” and “Box of Books” are available at all three library locations.

Early readers for ages 4 to 7

The first books children read on their own will have large print, easy vocabulary and simple plots. These “Easy Readers” are identified by a numbered reading level on their cover. These books should be made available when your child expresses an interest in independent reading, but remember there is no correct age for this to happen. Meanwhile, continue to read aloud and not only at bedtime. Continue with picture books, but also introduce longer stories, even simple chapter books. At this point, a child’s comprehension far outpaces their own reading ability.

Even when your child begins reading independently, retain some time together. Hearing stories read aloud is beneficial even for older children. Stimulate discussions about the books they are reading and be sure to keep reading yourself; kids will want to imitate your behavior.

Chapter books for ages 6 to 10

When your child is no longer engaged by Easy Readers, introduce chapter books. Look for books with pictures or identify a series. Graphic novels and nonfiction provide alternatives for reluctant readers and despite their visual-heavy formats, should be considered on equal literary standing with regular fiction. Consult a librarian for recommended titles, or view the library’s book lists, which are categorized by age and interest. Complimentary grade-school programs are available and include PAWS to Read, where kids read aloud to certified therapy dogs, and STEAM, an after-school club promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.

Middle Grade for ages 8 –to 12; Young Adult for ages 12+

The best of these genres are imaginative, diverse and relatable to typical adolescent experiences. Reoccurring themes include growing up and forming one’s identity, and the craftsmanship at work in these stories make them favorites among adults as well. Especially in Young Adult (YA), expect the books to handle difficult subjects, but know the finest of them will address these topics with nuance. Ask a youth services librarian for age-appropriate recommendations and consider picking one up for yourself.

Library Resources

Make the library your first stop this summer. Registration for the annual summer reading program opens June 1 (in person and online at fauquierlibrayr.org). Children of all ages, including teens, can join and will delight in the wide range of programs, games and prizes offered. The library also offers year-round programs to foster young literary spirits. There is no minimum age to sign children up for a library card, and this event can be turned into an important milestone in their reading life. For parents needing inspiration, the library publishes regular blog posts on children’s literature: “Kiddosphere” for babies, preschoolers and grade school students, and “Reading Riot” for middle school and young adult readers.

To learn more about all available programs and resources, visit fauquierlibrary.org or stop by your local library. A complete list of summer reading program activities and programs is available at your local library or at Fauquierlibrary.org.

Story times

Weekly stories for children up to age five.

Baby Steps – up to 15 months

Half Pints – 13 to 24 months

2’s & 3’s – ages 2 – 3

Preschooler – ages 3 – 5

Sensory Story Time – Preschool children with special needs


1,000 Books Before Kindergarten

Eager to help raise readers, FCPL offers “1,000 Books before Kindergarten.” Under this new year-round program, parent and child track books read on a special log. Reading milestones are celebrated at the library with stickers and other small prizes. In as little as 15 minutes a day, parents can prepare their youngsters for their first day of school.

The program is open to all children who have not yet entered kindergarten, and participants can begin as early as their first day home from the hospital. Reading should be fun, not a chore, so focus on the stories themselves rather than the number of titles. When a child is raised to love reading, the books will pile up on their own.


About the author:
Caroline Kessler was a 2017 PATH intern, assigned to Fauquier County Public Library

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