LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – It’s Parenting Connection Tuesday and 6 News is here for you with tips, strategies, and helpful reminders from local child development experts on how we can be better parents and guardians.

Today’s topic: The importance of reading to toddlers.

March is National Reading Month and the vast majority of Mid-Michigan students are now being asked to increase the amount of time they spend within a book cover, but research shows, the most important time for reading is actually before your kids even enter the school system. Doctors for say problems at school can be prevented if reading starts in the toddler years. That means parents, don’t wait for teachers.

Experts say, before children can read by themselves, they need early literacy skills that parents can help foster, these include:

*Knowing the letters of the alphabet

*Understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds

*Having a large vocabulary of words and knowing how to use them

These skills are greatly bolstered by simply reading a book or two every day — and here are 6 easy ways to help get you started:

*Choose books your toddler can easily follow along with

*Find books about topics you know your child will like

*Visit the library and let your child pick books to read at home

*Read slowly so your toddler can understand the story

*Read expressively, using different voices for different characters, and raising or lowering your voice as appropriate

*Use pictures to help develop a speaking vocabulary by talking about what is shown

Ultimately, child experts say the sooner you can begin a reading routine with your kids the better…. and there’s no better time to start, than during National Reading Month.