Children gain significant benefits from regularly getting to see their parents and other adult caregivers read and write. It’s important that they see the adults around them read both as a means to complete personal tasks and for enjoyment. When this happens, children learn that reading and writing are very useful and valuable activities. This helps them to form the expectation that reading and writing are purposeful, meaningful and pleasurable things to do every day.
Being immersed in situations where reading and writing occur regularly and are highly valued also helps children in another crucial way. It begins to help them build the kinds of background knowledge they’ll need to be able to utilize as they learn to read later. When children can be exposed to what they already know something about—such as dinosaurs, rain forest animals, music or a type of food—as they are read to or are beginning to learn to read, the text on the page or on the computer screen will make more sense to them. Selecting reading and writing topics that build upon what children already understand about the world around them can also help them better understand why they’re learning to read and write.
For these reasons, it’s important to try to familiarize children with the subjects that they’ll be introduced to in reading materials before the reading begins. If a book on butterflies is going to be read to a child by an adult, a short discussion about butterflies that occurs beforehand can ensure a richer reading experience for that child.