Happy Family Literacy Day!


Reading with or to a child is more than sharing stories. It is a sharing of ideas and emotions. It provokes questions and reflections. It opens a dialogue between the adult reader and the child. Reading permits an exploration of imaginary worlds, of abstract thought, of art and colors and shapes. Reading with or to a child should go beyond the experience of learning to read. Reading should be a pleasure, a moment of joy, an island to explore. I am often asked when, why, where, how and what should I read to my child? 

FAQ to an author-illustrator:


When should I start reading books to my child?

It's never too early! You can start before your child is born.

You can read to book-chewing, thumb-sucking, fidgety babies.

You can read to two toddlers (and one cat) or more, at a time.

Don't stop reading to your child when your child has learned to read. Let him read to you. Or take turns.

Read books with your child as long as you both enjoy it.


What should I read to my child?

There are books for everyone: budding scientists, clowns, cowboys, princesses, explorers, astronauts, baseball players, ballerinas, pirates and artists.

Find the right one. The book that will interest, captivate and inspire your child.

Offer your child a wide variety of books. Expand his mind.

After all you wouldn't serve your child potatoes for dinner every single day. Or would you?

 Bring your child to the library and let her choose her own books.

Read paper books to your child. They are lovely objects that you can feel, touch, smell and share...

Don't worry, your child will be interacting for the rest of his life with screens, technological devices and other as-of-yet uninvented modes of communication. More than you could ever imagine.


Make a habit of reading every day to your child. Reading at bedtime is great, but why not read at other times or in different places? Read on the bus, in a dentist's waiting room, after lunch. Read outside, with a flashlight, in a tree, etc.


How should I read to my child? What is the best way to read to my child?

 There is no best way, but...

 …you could make characters come alive by giving them voices: The monster GRRRRRROWLED! (Use a loud, deep, grrrrowling voice).

The ant whispered: "My name is Anton..." (Use a tiny, whispery ant voice).

The duck quacked. (Use a quacking nasal voice.) And so on and so forth.

…Or, you could "read" the illustrations: Look for details in the art. Empower your child by letting him point out the details that he has spotted. Discuss the art: What materials did the artist use? What is the body language of the characters? What does it mean?

If your child interrupts you with a question or a comment, don't hesitate to stop reading to answer the question. If you don't know the answer, ask your child: What do you think? 


My child doesn't like reading. What should I do to encourage him to read?

Be a role model. Read books in front of your child. Talk about the story you are reading.

Try to find books about subjects that will interest your child: She likes fire engines? He likes drawing monsters or pirate ships? She likes worms? After all, don't you choose your books according to your interests?

Librarians and good independent booksellers are a great help when you don't know where to start looking.


My child just reads comic books or picture books, how can I get him to read novels or more serious books?

If your child only reads comic books, show your interest. Read them with him. Discuss them. Then propose graphic novels. Or first novels with a lot of illustrations. There is no rush to graduate to 'serious' novels.


Why should I read to my child? He will learn to read in school anyway.

You are right. There is a good chance that your child will learn to read in school. But don't you think it is a parent's responsibility to encourage their child to read with delight and curiosity?

It is the best, most enduring and life-changing gift that you can give to your child.





Marie-Louise Gay's books are available from your favourite wholesaler or bookstore.
Or visit Groundwood Books.