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Make Time for Play + Reading

*Originally printed in our Families First Magazine.

Despite research that shows playtime is important for young minds, many children are spending all day in front of the TV or using digital devices instead of learning about the world from free play. That also means that many children aren’t reading books, which should be a part of every child’s daily activities.

Mixing Reading with Play Time

Play is essential to learning and can help children increase their ability to store information. It also helps improve literacy skills by making connections between written and verbal expression and helping them expand their vocabulary. So get creative and mix books into playtime!

Expand on a book theme during play or make up a fun game that complements the story. You could even dress up like characters and incorporate specific things from a book into your day or week.

“Reading builds a foundation for learning, and reading to babies also provides a great opportunity for early bonding. It’s never too early to start reading with your child,” said Debi Bartholomew, early literacy program specialist at Wake County Smart Start. “We are encouraging families to sign their children up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library as soon as they’re born so they can receive a new, free book in the mail each month until age 5.”


Early literacy specialists meet and decide which books children will receive each year with selections based on children’s development stages. When a child is enrolled to receive monthly books from the Imagination Library, they will get a special book about kindergarten during the month that they turn 5.

“We give out books at every well-child check from 6 months through 5 years old as a part of the Reach out and Read (RoR) program,” said Rasheeda Monroe, MD, associate director of WakeMed Physician Practices – Pediatrics. “We also emphasize daily reading and literacy at every well-child visit starting from birth.”

16 Reading Tips for Families

  1. Start reading to your child as soon as possible after they are born.
  2. Read together every day.
  3. Place your child in your lap and enjoy snuggles while reading.
  4. Point to words and items in pictures and talk about colors, shapes, etc.
  5. Take a break if your child is unhappy or fussy.
  6. Let children choose books.
  7. Read the same book over (and over) to reinforce language.
  8. Keep books handy – keep some in the car, take them to the park, etc.
  9. Create a kid-friendly space for books so they can easily access them.
  10. Encourage children to participate in reading as they learn the words.
  11. Read for multiple short periods if your child isn’t ready to sit for longer.
  12. Use creative voices for characters.
  13. Explain a few new words while reading.
  14. Show them the cover and talk about the book you’re going to read.
  15. Let them turn the pages.
  16. Most of all, have fun!


Sign up. Get reading.

Imagine the fun of receiving a book every month in the mail and building your child’s home library to encourage a love of reading. If you live in Wake County, and have a child under age 5, you can
receive free books from the Imagination Library. It’s easy to sign up online at imagination-library. If you have any problems or questions, contact Debi Bartholomew at 919-851-9550.

For more reading tips, visit and

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