Why read a book to an infant who does not yet know the meaning of a word--or of words at all? Why sing to a toddler who cannot understand your song?

Both of these activities help children make connections between words and meaning. They also help to create a warm, safe environment for children and lead to a lifetime love of reading and learning.

Some parents assume that learning to read starts with memorizing the alphabet and sounding out words, but actually the fundamentals of reading begin much earlier. Adults lay the foundation for reading every day, when they point out objects and describe what they are doing while dressing an infant, grocery shopping with a toddler, or cooking with a preschooler.

The most important thing is that teaching children about reading becomes an activity that brings children closer to the caring adults in their lives. Here are some tips for families who want to help their children make connections between meaning and words.

This Section of News Parents Can Use is Excerpted from: Helping Children Learn about Reading. (1997). Early Years are Learning Years. National Association for the Education of Young Children.