Friday, November 25, 2011

Danny Brassell, PhD: Reading

What Parents Need to Know About Raising Readers

Welcome to my first blog for “PreK + K Sharing.” I look forward to interacting with you, as I am passionate about helping parents, teachers and administrators create a lifelong passion for reading in children. I'm Danny Brassell, broadcasting to you from California. I'm excited to be part of this collaboration and look forward to your comments and questions.

Jim Trelease, author of The Read Aloud Handbook, says that giving a kid a passion for reading is like giving a kid a head cold: you cannot give it, if you do not have it. So parents need to understand that the best way to encourage their children to read is to read with and in front of their children as much as possible. It does not take a rocket scientist to raise a reader. All any child needs is a caring parent who is present. Here are some quick tips for parents to encourage their children’s reading development:

  • Sound crazy? In one study researchers asked women in the last trimester of their pregnancies to repeatedly read aloud Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. Once the babies in the study were born, they demonstrated the ability to distinguish rhyming passages from Dr. Seuss from another book without rhymes. Translation: it is never too early to read aloud to children.
  • By the way – babies are naturally attached to their mothers because, among other reasons, they hear their mothers talking. Be an active parent and talk to your baby so she is familiar with you before she is born.
  • Share books that your infant can “man-handle.” These include board books (those made of thicker cardboard), vinyl books and those made out of cloth. Keep in mind that a lot of infants get their first “taste” of reading by literally putting books in their mouths.
  • Whenever the time, read books that rhyme. And babies think it’s neat, when their parents repeat.

  • As toddlers can have a limited attention span, it is a good idea to pick out short reading passages. Nursery rhymes, poems and fables are ideal.
  • Share picture books with limited text and encourage toddlers to tell their own stories based on the pictures.

  • Movement sells. For example, if you read a book that features a thunderstorm, encourage your child to pat his thighs.
  • Ham it up. Don’t be afraid to look foolish and laugh with your child by using different voices as you read stories together.

  • Make reading the reward instead of movies, candy and video games by treating your child to library visits, new books from the bookstore, etc.
  • Whenever possible, connect stories that you and your child read with experiences from your own lives.
Now, I understand this blog is meant primarily to address PreK + K needs, but just to add some food for thought, I’d like to include a few more tips for early elementary school students:

First Graders
  • If television is an inevitable part of your child’s life, make a rule that your child must bring you a book to read before watching any television programs. When the television is on, turn on the closed-captioning so your child still sees print.
  • Reading is not just books. Supply children with newspapers, magazines, football cards, brochures, etc.

  Second Graders
  • Talk about your favorite books with your child. Compare stories that you liked when you were his age and what you like to read now.
  • Ask your child to dictate stories to you and create books together. Then, “publish” your books (you can laminate stories, knit books and even create professional-quality books using free online software).

Third Graders
  • Create a “balanced diet” for your child by exposing him to different genres, such as fiction, non-fiction, poetry, fantasy, etc.
  • Encourage your child to write to her favorite author. Children’s authors are notoriously good about responding to their young fans.

Keep in mind that strategies that work with toddlers often work for second graders, so do not get stuck with age-specific ideas. You do not have to wait until third grade to expose your child to different genres. The most important tip is to keep reading fun. Children who love reading tend to love it because they associate it as a special activity between them and their parents. 

Danny Brassell, Ph.D., is a father of three and professor in the Teacher Education Department at California State University-Dominguez Hills. He is the founder of The Lazy Readers’ Book Club,, Google’s #1-ranked site for cool, “short book recommendations” for all ages. You can get more teaching tips by browsing his books and videos at his website,


  1. This is a wonderful and very beneficial post to share the importance reading with children for each age! You are so right babies do recognize familiar voices after being read to in the prenatal stage! ~ Young developing brains are amazing aren't they?!
    Thank you Danny!

  2. Danny, we are so very fortunate to have you, your expertise, your insight and your guidance in our midst. I'm especially grateful for your sharing the thought about passion, head colds and sharing. "Ya can't teach what ya ain't got." (Para-phrase.)

    Looking forward to your column contributions over time!


  3. I wish every parent would read this and memorize it. This is all so true. Excellent! Carolyn

  4. Great reading tips! I like how you were able to keep it short and to the point. This is just what busy parents need. I found a link to this post on Connect A Blog where I am a contributor. My blog is called Beginning Reading Help. I look forward to more of your posts.
    You'll find a link to my BlogFrog community in my blog's sidebar. I'd love for you to join this forum. I have a We Teach Children to Read Facebook community too.

  5. Wonderful post, Danny! I love the head cold analogy and your suggestions for various ages. What a great idea to turn on the television's closed-captioning for beginning readers! I pinned your post to my Literature-Based Activities Pinterest Board at I'm hoping lots of parents will read your post! :) Deb @

  6. Wow. Thanks for all of the kind words and feedback, everybody. Ya'll made my day. Looking forward to lots more posts, and please holler if there are particular questions you'd like me to answer. All the best, and God bless! ~ Danny ;-)

  7. Danny.... love the idea of presenting reading as the reward and I especially love the idea of reading to children in pre-natal stages. This is right in line with the work of Dr. Tomatis and a lot of the work my Foundation is involved in. Thank you so much for sharing the info in such a user-friendly way. Happy Holidays!


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