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How Parents Can Help Children Improve Reading Skills

How Parents Can Help Children Improve Reading Skills
Posted on April 4, 2018 by CHS

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

Reading is fundamental for school success. The skills needed to become fluent in language and literacy begin to develop in infancy, and continue growing well into adulthood. Helping children discover a love of books, involving them in meaningful conversations, enjoying music together, and practicing basic literacy skills will support them in becoming fluent and competent readers.

Research has shown that reading to children for just fifteen minutes a day can have a profound impact  on their future success. This evidence has led to the creation of nation-wide literacy programs and events such as Talk, Read, Sing, Read Aloud 15 Minutes, Read Across America in March, Read for the Record in October, National Poetry Month in April, and Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R.) Day on April 12th. There are many things parents can do at home to build their child’s reading skills.

Parents can start by learning about the typical literacy milestones young children develop at each age from infancy to age 13. Note that each child learns at his or her own pace and that the milestones are meant to be general guidelines. Reach Out and Read also offers a summary of milestones for infancy through age five in English and Spanish. Parents can also use this guide for Choosing a Child’s Book by Reading Rockets. The tips below  offer activities that parents can do at home to help their child develop the strong language and literacy skills needed to become a fluent reader.

Infants and Toddlers
Begin reading to children when they are infants. Choose board books, cloth books, or vinyl books with large pictures or photographs of people, animals, or everyday objects. Read aloud to children every day, even if it is only for a few minutes before bedtime. Show enthusiasm for the book as you read and point to the pictures. Introducing books at an early age will inspire your child to be curious about reading and establish a healthy reading routine.

Sing simple songs, chants, and nursery rhymes with babies to build their vocabulary. Use gestures and animated expressions to represent the words in the songs. There are many videos of children’s songs on YouTube that parents can use. Young children will request to hear their favorite books and songs over and over again because they learn by repetition, and they love spending time with people who love them.

Preschool Aged Children
Continue with a consistent reading routine. Choose books that rhyme, tell a story, practice math skills like counting, matching, or identifying shapes, and non-fiction books about animals, nature, and weather. Children are now old enough to learn how to handle books carefully and turn pages without ripping them. They can also learn to identify the parts of a book such as the cover, spine, pages, and table of contents. Children can learn how to identify the title, author, and illustrator names on the cover, and by pointing to words as they read. Adults can also show children that English is read from left to right.

Parents can set an example by reading newspapers, magazines, or books in front of children, and making books accessible in all areas of the home. For example, books could be in the bedroom and living room, and cookbooks or magazines with recipes could be in the kitchen. If parents choose to read on a tablet or smart phone, they can show their child the screen and tell him they are reading. Introducing children to different types of print helps children understand the purpose of writing. They can learn that recipes are written to help us cook, newspapers are written to tell us what is happening in the world, and non-fiction books are written to teach us. Get Ready to Read offers this Literacy Checklist to help parents develop an environment that encourages reading.

Preschool children can act out their favorite stories with stuffed animals, dolls, or puppets. This allows them the chance to explore different character roles and invent their own versions of the original story. Children can also draw a different ending to the story, or their favorite part of the story, and invent their own stories that parents can help write down or record. Children this age also enjoy listening to audiobooks in the car or at bedtime. Reading Rockets offers this advice for using audiobooks.

Establishing a reading routine that the whole family participates in helps children see that reading and learning is something enjoyable and valuable you can do for yourself. Creating a positive attitude for reading in the early years will motivate children to continue reading after they enter school.

School Aged Children
As children enter kindergarten, they begin learning to read by sounding out letters and short words. By the end of kindergarten they may be able to read short sentences on their own, and will eventually progress to chapter books. Once children begin reading in school, their attitude towards reading may change. Children may begin to lose interest in reading because there are more required items to read and the subjects might not be interesting to them, or because they are beginning to spend more time playing sports, or socializing with friends.

Continue scheduling time for the whole family to read together. Everyone can find a cozy spot and read alone for twenty minutes, or take turns reading out loud to each other. Children may find it interesting to read in different formats. They can try using a tablet, listening to audiobooks, or reading graphic novels. Find fun ways to practice new vocabulary words like playing charades, board games that involve spelling like Scrabble Junior, My First Bananagrams, or make your own vocabulary games. Visit the Brookes Publishing Company website to discover Fifteen Fun Language and Literacy Skill Builders.

Parents can contact their child’s teacher to learn how their child’s reading skills are progressing and discover ideas for supporting reading skills. Many public libraries offer reading programs with therapy dogs or cats and this can be a benefit to struggling readers who need to develop more confidence. Public libraries may also have book clubs for children and teenagers, special reading events, or offer tutoring opportunities. Youth librarians can also make suggestions regarding books children may like, or recommend activities, websites, and apps that can help children practice reading skills. Contact your local library and discover the different reading programs they offer.

For more information, explore the resources below, or consult with your local Resource and Referral Program to find parent workshops, support programs, or additional resources in your area.

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