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From the moment a child is born (or even before, some scientists have argued), he is absorbing information like a sponge absorbs water. The things that babies see, touch, taste and hear as they explore the big bright world around them build out the neural pathways in their brains.

Language acquisition is a primary neural development in those first few years of life. Unsurprisingly, babies’ engagement with spoken language prepares them to approach learning to read.

Having your children listen to you read a book to them is an excellent way to jumpstart this process. As they follow along, they begin to engage the areas in their brain that will play a role in the reading process, from the cerebellum which controls eye-tracking to the prefrontal cortex where comprehension takes place.

If time or money feels like an obstacle to getting your child engaged with books before school begins, here are a few tips:

  • Your local public library is a great way to expose your child to lots of different kinds of books for free. Make a habit of spending some time there every Saturday.
  • Many bookstores hold free story-time sessions where a group of children are read to by a volunteer or member of staff
  • Try to establish a routine for reading. This takes the pressure of worrying about when to do it each day. Right before bedtime is the classic reading slot!
  • If the idea of reading the same book 10 times over makes you want to tear your hair out, play a little game – cuddle up on the couch with your toddler, some pillows and her favourite book, and ask her to make a funny noise each time she hears you read a certain word. This will also help develop her phonemic awareness.


Sarah Forrest is an Easyread Coach for the Easyread System, an online phonics course that provides support for spelling and reading problems. Easyread specializes in helping with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder and highly visual learning styles. Find out more at or