As a classroom teacher with over 30 years experience, my best advice is to exploit your child's love of animals in encouraging them to read.
Begin with regularly taking your little one through A-Z Picture books of animals. Buy your child books about animals and read to them regularly each evening before bed.
I still have my copy of "The Go To Sleep Book" my parents read to me as a child which tells the story of a range of young animals preparing for bed and sleep, with their siblings and mothers. I can still quote lines from this book.
Don't worry if your child wants to hear the same stories over and over again. This helps children memorise the stories and begin to even recognise the words, not just the pictures.
Such simple strategies will really help with modelling a love of reading, as well as developing literacy skills. Parents who never read themselves and don't encourage their child to read are denying their offspring the best possible start in a world that very much revolves around written information and the individual's ability to understand, interpret and analyse the information it contains.
By the time I was about six, my dad read me Banjo Patterson's iconic 'Man From Snowy River' and other horse related poetry. I began to learn them and his love of these poems was passed on to me.
This process was repeated again and again, with so many books and I look back on our pre bedtime ritual of stories as amongst the fondest memories of my childhood. Both my parents, as well as family friends and relatives also partcipated in the nightly reading ritual!
As your child grows in literacy skills and begins to read independantly, you can get them to read, not just to you, but also to a pet that enjoys being by their side.
Later, I continued this evening reading ritual on as I selected novels, poetry and non fiction that largely supported my passion for animals, but eventually progressed to wider interests.
When I was in Year 6 I wrote the following poem for my beloved pet labrador Andy
Andy is my dog,
He eats like a hog.
He is very old
And hates when it's cold.
He is soft and warm to touch
And I love him very much."
This poem, though admittedly niave in its content and poetical devices, none the less illustrates that writing about my animals, was a key motivation in the development of my own literacy skills.
I continued on to read endless horse and animal novels, modelling my own writing and developing my vocabulary and ability to manipulate language in this process.
By the time I was in Year 6, I was a sufficiently confident writer to submit a horse short story to Rider Magazine. It was published, putting me into the realm of a professional author by the time I was entering my teens!
Not all children achieve that degree of literary confidence and competency so early in life, but many are just as enthusiastic and passionate about animals.
Make the most of this, or indeed any other passion to help your child develop their literacy skills. There is possibly no greater gift a parent can give to their children than this; it opens the doors for a bright future, regardless of the path your child chooses later on.
As a teacher, I have certainly encouraged many a reluctant reader to improve their skills through recognising, reinforcing and encouraging their love of animals!