7 Easy Ideas to Help Get Your Child Reading

Many parents feel stressed about reading. It is, after all, one of the most important skills we possess and without it, life today is extremely difficult. Even with the advent of technology, reading is still a must. Think about it- websites, emails, texts etc. 

So, how can parents help their children to read and encourage them to love books?

In the Early Years (2-4)

  1. early literacyMost early childhood experts will tell you that reading to your child is the #1 thing parents can do to ensure their child becomes a reader. Parents usually do this as part of a bedtime routine. Really young children love to hear the SAME books over and over again. Try not to get discouraged, even when you are bored. When my oldest was 3, her favorite book was a Curious George compilation of 5 stories. Every night for probably 4 months, she wanted me to read from that book. Not one of the five stories, but the SAME one, every night! Was I bored? Yes! But I also knew that the words were imprinting on her young mind. One of the main benefits of realsing to toddlers and preschoolers is ia higher aptitude for learning in general. Countless studies have shown that students who are exposed to early literacy are more likely to do well in all aspects of formalized education. 
  2. Ensure that your child’s room has lots of books. I love books and relished buying picture books for my kids. Each of them had a bookshelf in their room. We also went to the library weekly. Sometimes I would catch one of my children “reading” to her stuffed animals. This is an indication of early literacy, children are retelling a story they know, using their own words while following the images.
  3. Not only should your child’s room be full of books but so should the preschool program they attend. Ask your childcare provider about their literacy program and look for a reading center in the classroom. Listen for statements like:
  • “We incorporate books into our weekly/monthly units of study.”
  • “We read books daily to the children as a part of circle time.”
  • “During free time, children have opportunities to read or be read to.”

Early Elementary (5-8)

At Home

  1. early literacy2As your child begins to sound out words and decode on his own, encourage him to read to you! There are loads of easy reader books at the library, from Scholastic or a local bookshop. You could even ask his teacher to lend you some. I once knew a Kindergarten teacher who had a little briefcase she sent home each night with a different child. In the suitcase was an easy reader book for the child to read to his parents along with a few puppets. The child could read the book to the puppets, mom, dad, anyone. Children loved to carry the briefcase home!
  2. When your child gains fluency, you can also begin to read together. Many parents like the strategy of reading one page and having their child read the next, and so on. It’s critical to make sure that this is a relaxed and fun activity, not stressful for your child. It is also fine if your child chooses a book that might be a little below grade level. It’s great to ask a few questions as you go along just to check comprehension but it also gives you an opportunity to talk about the characters and the choices they are making, lessons learning, etc. A good way to know if a book is the right level is the “five-finger” rule. On average if there are about 5 words per page your child struggles with, that is the right level. Teach this to your child, it can help them know too!
  3. Some parents enjoy reading long chapter books at night to their children. This is an excellent way to continue to inspire them to want to read longer, more complex books. It’s also great one-on-one time many parents enjoy. Read aloud helps with auditory comprehension and memory too. It can also provide great fodder for interesting conversation. I recently met a father of two boys- 7 and 9 years old. His routine now is to read graphic novel “classics” to his kids and they are eating them up. It’s also a wonderful bonding time for the guys together.
  4. At School – Here is what to look for:
  • You want a school program that not only encourages reading but allows children to self select books. Inquire if the children can pick out their own books or if they can only read what is assigned to them.
  • Are there classroom libraries and not just a school library? Look for books in the classroom itself.
  • Ask the teacher if there is a quiet reading time and not just reading “instruction.” More specifically, do the kids actually have time to read during the school day?
  • Does the program include book groups – when children read a book together in small groups- intermittently throughout the year?
  • How does the school evaluate reading? Do the children have reading contracts or are they evaluated from tests or another way?
  • Do the children have opportunities to share about the books they are reading with one another? Is this an oral share? Do they get to complete projects about their books?

Forbes Magazine recently claimed, “If You Want to Succeed in Business, Read More Novels.” That article points to studies showing that “reading fiction actually increases people’s emotional intelligence: their accurate awareness of themselves and others, and their ability to create positive relationships with others based on managing their own reactions.” In other words, when we read about made up characters, we become better at understanding people and situations in our lives. And this makes us better at our jobs. 

The goal of reading is to encourage mastery of fluency and comprehension so we can essentially read whatever we want and understand it. I would argue there is another goal. That is to inspire and foster the love of reading. The best way to do this is to model (as parents- show our kids that we read for pleasure too!) AND to find a school program that provides children with both choice and time so that they also become successful readers and love it too!

If your child is struggling with decoding at the age of 6, please speak to his or her teacher. Children naturally pick up reading and have fun rhyming words, putting sounds together to make words and breaking them apart. However, nearly one third of children struggle with the acquisition of decoding, the basis for reading. These children most often need individualized instruction in an Orton-Gillingham program to help them be successful readers.

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