This story was originally published by New Canaan & Daren Moms.

Every child development expert we’ve spoken to over the past few weeks, from teachers to pediatricians, has said that keeping kids reading (and reading to younger kids) is one of, if not the most, important thing you can do to keep kids learning during this time at home. Looking for ways to keep your children interested in reading? Mary Elizabeth Shaw is a reading specialist and the founder of Busy Bee Literacy who is sharing the best ways to make reading fun and her favorite books for children of all ages. 

Read to them with enthusiasm

To begin with, she says the single most effective thing parents can do to promote literacy in young children is to read aloud with them and show them that reading is a fun activity. “This means using silly voices and showing your excitement around reading! Beyond this, phonemic awareness is a precursor to reading and ideally preschoolers get lots of practice with this. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken words. This skill is fundamental to mapping speech to print and helping children to learn to read. There are so many fun ways to develop phonemic awareness such as word and syllable counting and word play,” Mary Elizabeth explains.

Ask for help if you think they need it

“Although all children progress at different rates, early intervention for language and literacy development is important if you suspect your child is struggling. I always suggest speaking to your pediatrician first if you are concerned with their language and literacy development,” she says.

Create a reading nook

As for encouraging children to read now, Mary Elizabeth says that having a cozy reading space can be helpful. “Even if it’s just a special pillow to read on can make reading feel like more of a treat. Also, allowing your child to have a certain snack they enjoy or a hot chocolate can also make reading seem like a more ‘special’ activity,” she explains.

Mary Elizabeth also has a few favorite books for all reading levels. Take a look at her recommendations, below!

Preschool Favorites:
Pete the Cat I love My White Shoes by, Eric Litwin; Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Busby, Mo Willems; Land Shark by, Beth Ferry; Bear Says Thanks by, Karma Wilson; If you Give a Moose a Muffin and the rest in this series by Laura Numeroff; and finally all Todd Parr books!

Elementary Favorites:
The Most Magnificent Thing by, Ashley Spires; the I Survived Series by, Laura Tarshis, the Clementine Series by, Sara Pennypacker. I also love graphic novels for reluctant readers as there are so many opportunities for comprehension skills such as making inferences: The Narwhal and Jelly Book series by, Ben Clanton; Anne of Green Gables: a Graphic Novel, and Nancy Drew Graphic Novels.

Book series for tweens and teens:
For teens and tweens a lot depends on reading ability and also parent comfort with the content but some suggestions are: Percy Jackson by, Rick Riordan; Land of Stories by, Chris Colfer; City of Emberby Jeanne DuPrau, Wings of Fire by Tui Sutherland, The Unwanteds by, Lisa McMann.

For families to read aloud:
Yes! Family read alouds are great because it allows lower level readers to access more complicated text. If reading aloud sounds exhausting right now, you can also do a family ‘listen’ where you put on an audiobook for everyone to listen to together. Some of my favorites for this purpose are: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte’s Web, The Tale of Despereaux, Matilda and The Borrowers.

Learning apps:
Reading, Spelling, Phonics and Sight Words:
Homer is subscription based and has a step by step literacy learning program for children ages 2-8 years, Nessy Apps, Reading Egg and Starfall.

Spelling:
Spelling City, Rocket Spelling, Word Wizard

Handwriting:
Yum Yum Letters, Ollie’s Handwriting

Audibooks:
Epic!
Learning Ally

For parents needing an escape right now:
I recently listened to Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and that was one of my favorite books to listen to because the reader did an amazing job with different character voices. I wish I had other ‘fun’ reads to suggest right now, but some books I’ve recently read that I’ve enjoyed are, The Montessori Toddler, The Whole Brainchild, and Nurture Shock. I highly recommend all of them for some insight into child behavior and brain development!

Mary Elizabeth shares literacy tips and tricks on her Instagram @busybeeliteracy.

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