September 07, 2010 08:00 ET

Raising Eager Readers

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - September 7, 2010) -  (Family Features) Parents are looking for ways to get their kids back into the learning mode. Making education a part of the norm is essential for an easy transition back to school. Not only is it important for success, but childhood development as well. Exposure to books in the early childhood stages plays a key role in a child's reading development, and while most parents and caregivers know that children benefit from reading time, many struggle to fit it into their children's hectic schedules.

A survey conducted on behalf of VTech, a leading electronic learning products provider, found that more than 40 percent of moms with children ages 3 to 7 years old said that not having enough time to spend reading with their children is the biggest challenge they face in trying to make reading a daily activity. And nearly half wished there were ways to include reading in their child's on-the-go schedule.

Fortunately, there are plenty of fun and practical ways to make reading a part of everyday family life.

Making Reading Fun
You can help a child develop reading skills even when you're running errands or doing activities together. By going places and doing things with children, you help build their background knowledge and vocabulary, giving them a basis for understanding what they read.

Telling stories and interacting with each other while on the go helps them develop their listening and thinking skills.

And now there are technologies that let you take interesting reading material wherever you go. The new V.Reader, the first interactive, animated e-book system for children, creates an engaging reading experience for early readers, ages 3 to 7, so they love to learn to read.

"We understand that parents are looking for ways to merge learning and fun and VTech is excited to offer the V.Reader, which does exactly that," said Tom McClure, director of marketing, VTech Electronics North America, LLC. "Parents can trust this cutting-edge e-book to aid in their children's development while proving how learning can be fun too."

The touch-and-read e-book brings stories to life with narration, characters, animation, graphics, sounds and music. Kids interact as they listen and follow along with a story, or touch the screen and play games to learn each word and sentence. The V.Reader helps teach reading comprehension, vocabulary, phonics and word building.

Reading is a skill that requires nurturing. Creating a literacy-rich home is the best way to engage children with the joys of books and help them become readers for a lifetime. One convenient way to keep a constant stream of new books available to young readers is by downloading new e-book titles. Through the VTech website, new titles are available at your fingertips to add to your child's V.Reader library.

To find out more about the V.Reader and to download titles, visit

Create a Reading-Friendly Environment
Research1 shows that lack of access to books and educational materials is the single greatest barrier to literacy development in the US and beyond. Books, magazines, newspapers and other reading tools should be within easy reach of the whole family. Try designating a bookcase or shelf where children can keep a personal library.

According to First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides new books to children in need, a steady stream of new, age-appropriate books has been shown to nearly triple interest in reading within months. By visiting, families, teachers and reading programs can help children from low-income communities build their own home libraries and start the journey to becoming lifelong readers.

"It's important for beginner readers to continue practicing their newly acquired reading skills," said Ron Fairchild, founding CEO of the National Summer Learning Association and a national authority on how to expand learning opportunities for youth. "Research shows that access to reading material that matches kids' ability levels and interests, and assistance to ensure comprehension, are important to sustaining and advancing reading skills."

Some other tips for helping young readers develop include:

  • Read with your child every day, even if it's just for a few minutes.
  • Ask open-ended questions, such as "What do you think is going to happen next?" or "Why do you think he did that?"
  • Read your child's favorite book over and over.
  • Find out what interests your child and get reading materials to feed that interest.
  • Let children see you read and invite them to read with you.

The US Department of Education (DOE) also recommends that when reading a book aloud to young children, point to each word as you read. This helps the child make a visual connection -- that the word said is the word seen.

1 Susan B. Neuman, Ph. D. University of Michigan, Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement

Literacy Milestones
Most children develop certain skills as they move through the early stages of learning language. According to the Department of Education, these are some milestones to be working toward:

From ages 3 to 4, most preschoolers:

  • Enjoy listening to and talking about storybooks 
  • Understand that print carries a message
  • Identify familiar signs and labels
  • Participate in rhyming games 
  • Identify some letters and make some letter-sound matches

At age 5, most kindergartners:

  • Retell simple stories
  • Use descriptive language to explain or to ask questions
  • Recognize letters and letter-sound matches
  • Show familiarity with rhyming and beginning sounds
  • Begin to match spoken words with written ones

At age 6, most first-graders:

  • Use a variety of ways to help with reading a story such as rereading, predicting what will happen, asking questions, or using visual cues or pictures
  • Read some things aloud with ease
  • Identify new words by using letter-sound matches, parts of words and their understanding of the rest of a story or printed item
  • Sound out and represent major sounds in a word when trying to spell
  • Try to use some punctuation marks and capitalization

Photo courtesy of Getty Images