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Nancy Creaghead, PhD, and Karla Washington, PhD

Nancy Creaghead, PhD, and Karla Washington, PhD
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Publish Date: 07/17/14
Media Contact: Katy Cosse, 513-556-2635
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HEALTH LINE: Make Summer Reading a Family Activity for Young Kids

CINCINNATI—While their older siblings are working through school-assigned summer reading, preschool-aged children can develop their literacy skills this season, with some parent-guided reading.

Karla Washington, PhD, an assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders in UC’s College of Allied Health Sciences, has studied how parents can influence young children’s literacy and language development by reading together.

Her studies have focused on reading outcomes and different types of storybooks in both English-speaking and English-learning families in Greater Cincinnati.

She says the best gains in literacy occur when parents are actively engaged in the reading process with their children.

"Parents engaging in home reading practices with their children, using explicit reading strategies, has been promoted as the way to facilitate literacy development,” she says. "These explicit strategies have been easily incorporated into our recent parent-child shared-reading study—with both monolingual and English-Language Learning 3- to 5-year old preschoolers and their parents.”

Washington recommends that parents choose one explicit reading technique per week with different books:
  • Let your child lead (i.e., follow the child’s interests in the book).
  • Track print (i.e., point to the text) and talk about it.
  • Ask your child to predict what will happen (i.e., "What do you think happens next?”).
  • Ask questions about the print in the story.
  • Talk about the alphabet and letters in the storybook.
  • Discuss rhyming words and encourage rhyme detection, production, and play
  • Ask your child to recall parts of the story (i.e., "What happened to/when?”)
  • Allow your child to fill in words or "pretend” to read (this strategy works best with books that have a repetitive nature or one that the child knows well)
The Children’s Reading Foundation offers additional reading tips for families with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-age children.

For preschoolers, they recommend introducing books about numbers, colors, shapes and classifications—encountering these ideas now can make it easier for children when learning about them later in school.

Rhyming is another good way to develop language and reading skills. For a list of rhymes to sing with preschoolers, visit

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