How Parents Can Help Children Become Better Readers

by Carol Chandler-Wood

Reading is the basis for and at the core of students’ school success. In fact, reading is a basic life skill! Without good reading skills, opportunities for personal fulfillment and job success may be lost. Research has proven that parents play an important role in building their children’s reading skills. It is a lot like building a house in that children must have a strong foundation upon which to build. Like a house, reading skills need constant maintenance, so having a step by step plan is necessary.

First, make sure you have the tools needed. You will need reading materials on your children’s grade level which are easily accessible. Have at least one special spot in your home for reading which is comfortable, has good lighting, and is away from distractions. Create an atmosphere in your home that encourages reading because family routines and habits affect your child’s opportunities to read.

Next, boost your child’s interest in reading. Discuss stories they have read, take them to the library weekly, take turns reading aloud, subscribe to a publication which highlights something that interests them, and have them research a topic on the internet for you.

Be a reading role model for your children. Let them see you reading each day and tell them why you are reading. Look up words in the dictionary if you come across some of which you are unsure. Read something aloud to your children that you have found interesting. Have your own library card and let them see you use it.

Talk with your child. Each time you talk with them, you have promoted reading skills by helping to build vocabulary and language abilities. Discuss with your children current events, visit new places and use new words, ask them questions, challenge them with new words, and tell them make believe and true stories. Have them make up a simple song about story characters and then sing it aloud.

Encourage writing because without it, there would be no reading! Keep interesting writing supplies around such as markers, pens, crayons, stationary, and paper. Encourage them to draw pictures, write letters and thank you notes to relatives and friends, and keep a journal. Have your children draw pictures of their favorite story characters or scenes from their favorite story. Have them create birthday and greeting cards to send to those they care about. Ask them to write the grocery list and create a things-to-do list.

Help your child see the connection between reading and real life situations. Reading is a way to gather information, such as being alerted to rules, policies, and school expectations and becoming aware of current events. Let your children see contracts and important documents and emphasize the importance of reading the “fine print”. Relate reading to following instructions to build things and recipes to cook. Ask your child to read the directions when you are trying a new product or using a new appliance. This will allow them to practice their oral reading skills and learn how to use instructions.

Encourage them to practice their reading. Have you children read at least 30 minutes each day. This can be a book, magazine, or the newspaper. Teach your children to think before they read to establish the purpose. Encourage them to preview the material before they read to see what will be included, create mental images while they read to improve comprehension and to note key points, and mentally review after they read to summarize and determine what they learned.

Last, be sure to keep reading fun. Provide a variety of materials for them to read. Consider their hobbies and interests when furnishing materials. When reading aloud to them, use funny voices for characters and act out what you and they are reading. Browse through book stores together, and never forget, praise their efforts and progress!