Many parents ask what they can do to support their child's reading skills at home. Fostering a love of books is an important first step to developing reading skills. Many women read to their bellies while pregnant and begin a bedtime routine with infants by reading stories each night.

As your child gets older and begins to develop language, your read aloud will move from simply reciting the words on the page to engaging your child in a discussion and a more active experience in sharing the story. Below are some tips for maximizing story time with your child.

Before readingShow your child the cover of the book. Tell her the title, the author's name, and the illustrator's name. Ask her about the pictures. Ask "What do you see?", "Who do you think the story is about?", "What do you think will happen in this story?"

During reading Hold the book so you can read the words and he can see the pictures. Many teachers and parents will tell you they have mastered the art of reading upside down so as not to block the child's view of the pictures!

Don't be afraid to sound silly! Using different voices for characters and putting emphasis on silly or dramatic parts really brings the story to life and captivates your child.

Stop periodically and ask your child comprehension questions to ensure she is following along. Ask her to make predictions about the story. "What do you think will happen next?" is a simple question that engages your child in the story.

Allow your child to comment on the book or make connections to her own experiences. Connecting text to self is a crucial step in developing reading skills. When your child says "That's like when we went to the beach!" praise her for making the connection. Don't scold her for interrupting.

After reading Ask your child to recall the characters, setting, and general plot of the story. Ask "Who was the story about?" or "What happened in the story?" to encourage your child to recall details about the book.

Post-reading is also a good time for your child to make connections between the text and himself. If he hasn't already made a connection, you can plant the idea, by saying, "Think about the character's vacation. Does that make you think of a vacation our family went on?" Sometimes a little prompting leads your child to an association.

Chapter booksJust because your child has advanced her reading skills and no longer reads picture books doesn't mean you should abandon your nighttime rituals. Reading chapter books together is a great way to continue your child's love of reading and maintain a connection in your family.

Use the same strategies when reading chapter books aloud. Also, be sure to review previously read chapters each time you sit down to read together. Because there are no pictures, you can ask your child to create her own picture of the characters and setting.

Reading together offers a great way to bond for your family. It also puts you in a position to support your child's academic, social, and emotional growth each day. Using these tips will help you make the most of story time each and every day.

Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Jennifer is an educational consultant who works with families and educators to establish healthy and productive routines in the home and school. Adapting behavior management techniques she implemented for years as a special educator, she helps parents and teachers adopt these tools to fit their unique needs and priorities. Jennifer also speaks to parent and education groups on current topics in education and children's health. Visit www.jennifercerbasi.com