Suddenly, parents have had to become extremely involved in their children’s education and many find they’re extremely grateful for the teachers who inspire and guide their children’s education. One of the most important skills is that of reading.

Reading is so important that many professionals believe that parents should be reading to their infants. However, the basics of reading, the language skills, the visual perception and memory needed to read develop in most children in the first years of school. So why is it important to read to babies? Reading to babies allows their brains to learn that vocal sounds have meaning and learning that meaning is fun and rewarding.

The crucial factor that determines whether a student will do well or poorly in school isn’t how aggressively he was pushed early on but rather how the enthusiasm for learning was encouraged. The most successful approach to early learning is to let your child set his own pace and have fun. Don’t drill them on letters, numbers, colors, shapes or words. Instead encourage his curiosity and tendencies to explore on their own. Read books that they enjoy, but don’t push them to learn words. Reading provide them with new experiences, but make sure they’re fun and entertaining so they will want to learn to read to explore new experiences themselves.

There are many valuable tools to help children learn to read which include, of course, books. There are many resources or blogs that review children’s books and help parents find new material. Public libraries have great resources for children, and most have a children’s section and a children’s librarian. Even in the times of safe distancing, go to your local library’s web page and see what it can provide for your children. You may find readers reading online, gifts of books or helpful hints for parents. There are sites such as www.ReadingRockets.org, which has all sorts of tips for parents.

There are also educational TV programs, games, songs and age-appropriate video games and DVD’s. However, it’s important that parents be involved and not expect them to do the job alone. If your children are watching an education TV show, sit with them and talk about the information being presented. If the information isn’t appropriate for their ability, they may become bored or frustrated. This will diminish the fun and defeat the whole purpose.

Call your library, get a new book and have fun.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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