Reading is a lifelong skill. Though it’s an important one your child will work on at school, there are some things you can do to help. Getting your child off to a great (and early!) start can positively shape the rest of their life. In this article, we’ll look at a few ways you can help improve a child’s reading skills.
Making Your Child a Stronger Reader
The ability to read well starts at home, well before your child makes their way to school. There are a host of benefits to being a strong reader and having early access to books. These include better academic performance and stronger standardized testing scores. Follow these eight tips to help improve a child’s reading skills.
Have Books Available
When it comes to reading materials, your child needs to see it around the house. Start early with board books. These early books are great for engaging the brain and introducing words, shapes, and colors.
In addition to helping your child learn early concepts, these first books set the foundation for your child’s love of reading. Have plenty of books at their reading level and that suit their current interests. Don’t be afraid to provide items for them to grow into as well.
Read to Your Child
If you do only one thing to encourage your child to read, this is the one to do. Reading to your child is crucial to helping them develop a love of reading.
Reading aloud to your child stimulates the brain and helps your child learn to love reading. Storybooks can help children learn the structure of sharing stories and encourages them to create their own. Watching you read also helps them begin to form sound and word connections. This can make reading and writing easier for them in the future.
Incorporating reading into your bedtime ritual can be an all-around parenting win. It’s a great way to get in reading time and prep your child’s mind for bed. Go ahead and turn off the television and embrace a bedtime routine that puts books and reading at the forefront. You may be surprised how smooth it makes bedtime—and the reading gains it can give your child.
By the way, it's worth noting that while reading to your child has a lot of benefits, it doesn't automatically mean that your child will learn to read. There are lots of other things that you can do to help the process along though.
Have Family Reading Time
Modeling behaviors is an important part of learning for children. You’re likely busy, juggling your family, work, and home responsibilities. You probably don’t take the time to sit down and read very often.
Here’s the good news—there’s a really strong reason to go ahead and implement required reading in your home. Find a book that appeals to you, and sit down with your little one for 15 or 20 minutes. Bring your book and provide some for your child to flip through.
Reading with your child helps demonstrate that reading is valuable and fun. Children want to feel included, so they’ll look to participate as well. Don’t be surprised if you find your toddler walking around with your book and flipping through the pages. They want to be just like you, after all.
Visit Your Library
Libraries are magical, especially for children. Most libraries have an exceptional children’s section staffed with a librarian who specializes in children’s books. There are likely children’s programs in place, like reading time and toddler music. Your library will offer a wealth of educational opportunities for children of all ages.
Bringing home books from the library can keep your book collection fresh without costing a tremendous amount of money. Your child will also have plenty of opportunities to socialize and play with other children at the library. It’s one more positive connection your child can make to reading and to books.
Using the library at an early age can make your child more likely to seek libraries out in the future, as well. Make a weekly event out of it and watch your child learn to love books and reading.
Is your child offering to read to you, tell you stories, or make books for you? Set your list of things to do aside and give your child your undivided attention. Positive feedback at these junctures is a great way to support and encourage your child to develop a reading habit.
Don’t be critical here, but keep track of the progress your child is making. Squirrel away some of their masterpieces on a regular basis. This can help you see where your child is gaining—and where they need some help. If you ever have any questions for a teacher or a doctor, you can provide these samples for their review.
Tap Different Reading Avenues
We all know books are great. Pushing only books, though, can lead to resistance from your child. This is especially true as they get older. They may feel like they’re “missing out” on things their peers (or you) are doing.
Reading on any platform can help improve your child’s reading ability. If they are strongly motivated by graphic novels or magazines, go ahead and embrace it. If they love to be read to, pick out suitable audiobooks. Computer and tablet games for learning words and letters can also be a great learning tool.
Don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to exposing your child to words and letters. The more opportunities they have to embrace reading, the more likely they are to make progress. Even squeezing in fun word games like hangman at a restaurant while you’re waiting for your order can be beneficial.
Look for Indications of Difficulty
Don’t brush off a lack of interest in reading. If your child doesn’t find enjoyment in reading, they may be struggling. Don’t let them continue to hate reading or books when addressing an underlying issue could change their outlook.
Your observation skills here are critical. Create a log of where your child is struggling and look for patterns in the difficulty. This can help you better identify why your child is struggling. In turn, this can help you come up with a better plan for getting through the difficulties.
Use established guidelines to determine where your child is—and where they should be. The sooner reading problems are addressed, the better off your little one will be. If your child can’t sound out words or doesn’t recognize high frequency words like their peers, there may be a problem.
Ask for Help
If you do notice there’s a problem, don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals for help. If your child’s in school, begin with their teacher. They will have a list of professionals that can help your child navigate their difficulties and become a successful reader.
If your child is already in school, their teacher may have insight about your child’s difficulty. School can be a very different environment from home. Couple that with a teacher’s years of experience, and there may be crucial information to be gained from a short conference.
There are a whole host of reasons your child may be having difficulty. While some may be more complicated and time-consuming to work with, others may be simply rectified. Sometimes, a child’s reading difficulty can be corrected with only a visit to the eye doctor and a pair of glasses.
Your Child’s Reading Skills Can Be Improved
It’s never too late to help improve a child’s reading skills. It’s also never too early to start thinking about doing it. Many professionals even recommend reading to your child while they’re still in utero. This way, they can learn the cadence of their language and learn the sound of your voice.