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For most children, the seed is planted in preschool, it grows in Kindergarten, and it blossoms in First Grade. Some are late bloomers and others are cultivated earlier. No, this is not some strange lesson in botany: this is about reading development.

When a young child masters reading, the world around him begins to make sense. It unlocks many abstract concepts, such as inference, innuendo and vocal expression. He is able to read signs, labels and even your mail!

The road to reading begins early. Many prenatal guides suggest reading to your baby en utero. Reading to newborns and infants allows them to hear their native language, and toddlers and preschoolers learn that the arrangement of letters have a meaning. This reinforces the theory that reading to your child every night aids in his current and future reading success.

An overwhelming task? Not at all. Teaching your child to read is simple if you make reading fun. Start with the basics: easy books with one word per page. Say the words and have your child repeat them. This can even be done with toddlers. Have preschoolers identify letters and sounds, and encourage young school-age children to sound out the words phonetically. As your child gets older, introduce stories with more words, moving into books for the emerging reader.

Visit the library. Besides being an invaluable resource for books, the library offers other sources of learning. And, make visiting a routine. When children feel comfortable at the library, their interest in reading will peak. Let your child have his own library card. A card in his name will make him feel responsible for returning his books on time, and will make younger children feel important.

When financially possible, purchase books from an educational book club. These are often available at school, and offer a wide variety of age- and reading level-appropriate titles from which to choose. Most items are relatively inexpensive and some are discounted. Check with your child’s teacher for details.

Competition spurs an interest in reading. Enter your child in reading contests or marathons. The best are the kinds that let her read at her own pace over a period of time, and encourage parental assistance. Libraries often have summer programs, and offer small prizes for reading a specific number of books. Schools may team up with a local business that provides gift certificates for children who achieve various reading levels.

You can set a monthly reading goal at home, also. Keep a record of your child’s reading progress by creating a colorful wall chart. Your young son or daughter will beam with pride as they add a sticker to represent each book they complete. If they reach their monthly goal, treat them to an appropriate prize: a new paperback book of their choice!

Encourage your child to keep a journal. Maintaining a journal improves his writing and spelling skills, and offers an added bonus: he can then read his own work! Journal entries can include daily doings, special events or creative stories. And, be sure your child reads aloud to you what he has recorded, to show that reading is an integral part of his life.

Reward progress. Whatever method you choose to help make reading fun, make certain that you praise your child for her accomplishments. Even if it’s a baby step, a compliment can go a long way. It provides the encouragement and confidence your child needs to proceed. It demonstrates how proud you are of her improvement, and it sends the message that you are a partner in her continued reading success.