On Reading:
Raising Readers in an Electronic World

Would you like to give your child a gift that won’t break, wear out or get lost? It’s doesn’t require batteries or downloads, no USB cable or monthly service fees; a gift that will expand their mind. One they will want to share with you over and over again. Teach your children to love to read. Reading opens doors to the imagination, provides foundational skills for school success, and builds strong bonds between parents and children.

As the mother of six, I know, first hand, the challenges that beset children these days. Handheld electronic games, DVD players in cars, a constant stream of television programming, and cell phones that provide the opportunity for incessant ‘text talk’ all appear more pleasurable than settling down with a good book.

Alarming statistics, recently posted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, suggest that during a typical day, young people ages 8 to 18 spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes using electronic media. Cell phone ownership has nearly doubled since 2004. IPod ownership has quadrupled. A child’s free time is literally being filled up with the use of electronics.

So how do moms combat electronic trends and assist our children in becoming life-long readers? By following some key strategies, the task is really not that daunting.


Children learn to love the sound of language before they even notice the existence of printed words on a page. From the day a child is born, the sound of a mother’s voice brings comfort, begins patterning, and provides stimulation. Talk, sing, coo and goo with your baby beginning on day one. At a few months of age, an infant can look at pictures, actively listen to your voice, and point to objects on cardboard pages. There are an abundance of wonderful books these days that can be held by little hands. Allowing infants to handle books deepens their attachment to them.

When reading with your infant:

  • Have a variety of board books, soft books, touch and feel books, and picture books.
  • Guide your little one by pointing to the pictures and say the names of the various objects. Drawing their attention to the pictures will encourage word association and your child will learn the importance of language.
  • Encourage them to point to the pictures you describe.
  • Read often, but keep the sessions brief.
  • Don’t be afraid to create funny voices and vary your pitch and expression. Be animated!

When the rhythm and melody of language become a part of a child’s life, learning to read will be as natural as learning to walk and talk.


A regular reading time—like bedtime— establishes a calming routine young children love. But there are many other daily events which provide perfect reading opportunities. Try having a breakfast story, a bath time story, a just-home-from-nursery story or even an on-the-potty story. Some toddlers (and older children) who have a hard time waking up in the morning do better if their parents read them awake with a ‘good- morning’ story.

Tips for reading with toddlers include:

  • Take your child on your lap and read every day. Encourage them to choose the books.
  • Don’t worry if your child doesn’t seem interested at first. Just keep at it! My fifth child never seemed too interested in books, but we read anyway. He would often wander off to play in the middle of a story while his brothers and sisters would sit, listening attentively. Although he responded differently than our other children, our consistent efforts paid. In the third grade, something clicked and he became a voracious reader.
  • Take your toddler to the local library for weekly visits. Sign up for story time and other programs and let them pick out books to carry in their ‘special library bag’.
  • Follow with your finger as you read. This will help ingrain the pattern of reading from left to right.
  • When reading, pause and let the child fill in the blank. Rhyming books are great for this. The child can begin to predict the missing words and feel a great sense of triumph.
  • Encourage your children to pretend to read. As they get older, encourage them to create their own stories and books.

Emergent and independent readers:

  • Visit the public library, allowing your child get his own library card if possible. Help your child select books on his reading level.
  • Get to know your local children’s librarians. They can be an invaluable resource, as they will help your child find the perfect books, with the appropriate appeal.
  • Listening to an emergent or independent reader is just as important as reading to them. Praise their new skills.
  • When reading with your child, take turns. Read a page, and then let your child read a page.
  • When reading with your child, take turns. Read a page, and then let your child read a page.

All Ages:

  • Have a set family reading time where everyone “stops, drops, and reads”— even if it is only for 10 minutes a day.
  • How many TVs are in your home? Do you have just as many baskets filled with library books? Have a basket or box for books in every room.
  • Give books as gifts and encourage others to give your child books.
  • Limit TV and computer time.
  • Get caught reading by your kid—whether it is the newspaper, a magazine, or a book. Research indicates that a child’s attitude about reading and their reading development are influenced by parental reading habits.

It’s true, there are more technological distractions today than ever before. But I have great faith in you, the modern moms of today. You are dedicated to your children’s success. For this reason, I am confident that although this generation is bombarded with many alluring options for entertainment, the uprising generation will not lose their love of the written word!

As you seek to instill a love of books in your children, kids will continue to discover the magic of reading and you will succeed in producing the next generation of readers.

Lezlie Evans is a mother of six and a published children’s book author. Her latest title, Who Loves the Little Lamb?, published by Disney/Hyperion and illustrated by award winning artist, David McPhail, is the story of a mother’s unconditional love.

Read more about her and her books online at www.Lezlieevans.com, and stay tuned for a review and giveaway of her book on 5 Minutes for Mom on 4/26.


  1. Marcia Jackson says

    All great suggestions, Lezlie. I especially appreciate the advice to visit the public library often and get involved in the storytimes, book clubs, and other great programs. I’m a children’s librarian and I can tell you that we constantly strive to incorporate early/emergent literacy skills and experiences into all our programs. The feedback we get from our “regulars”, those parents who come often to the library, is that it makes a significant difference in the literacy development of their children. Plus it’s all free! Can’t beat that!

    • Lezlie Evans says

      Marcia- I am with you, you cannot beat the wonderful asset we have available to us in libraries and caring librarians!

  2. says

    Great tips, Lezlie.

    I can play the devil’s advocate a bit. We of course LOVE books here, but my son who is almost six also loves computer games etc. He was on his way to reading before he was five, so to some extent reading on computer games encouraged him to push harder.

    My friend whose son has always been a struggling reader, is also motivated by being able to read the words on screen in a game.

    That said — books are awesome, and if I had to give up books or screens, it would be screens for sure!!

    • Lezlie says

      @Jennifer (5 Minutes for Books): Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. Computer and television provide many great opportunities for learning, and that is precisely why I recommended limiting computer/TV time and not banishing it altogether. My 11 year old claims he got his superior spelling skills from typing on his computer games. (He is reading this over my shoulder!) However, studies have shown the #1 thing that contributes to a child’s success when he begins formal schooling is the number of minutes he has been read to aloud. Thankfully, we don’t have to choose between one or the other, our children can enjoy both books and computers. But keep in mind those minutes reading aloud really count.

  3. says

    Great article with some wonderful tips every parent should read and incorporate in their children’s lives.
    It’s so important that children have a balanced life and that includes sitting down to read an actual book. But technology can be a great thing if we make sure to incorporate some of the basics you mentioned in your article, as well as just getting outside and enjoy moving!

    Thank you so much for sharing…off to tell more people to read it!

  4. says

    Oh, this is just perfect, and something that parents really need to read. (And, I’m feeling quite proud of myself for how many of these tips are already part of my reading repertoire! Being a preschool teacher helped, certainly!)

    My middle child will turn 4 next month, and the thing that she is the most excited about is getting her own library card! (There’s no age restriction at our library system, but I told her that her older brother got his when he was 4, so that seemed like a good age.)


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