YOU’VE PROBABLY HEARD a dozen times that reading and writing often go hand-in-hand. So to raise kids who can write, it only makes sense that reading should be a big part of their lives!
Children develop at very different rates, so the speed at which they learn to read can vary widely. Whether you’re concerned that your child is falling behind, or you simply want to give her a head start in reading so she has the best possible chance in life, there are a number of easy things you can do to improve reading skills.
1. Read together every day
The best thing you can do is read daily with your child. If she is a reluctant reader, you could take turns reading pages or sentences, depending on her age. Remember that practice makes perfect, so set aside some reading time every day.
2. Make reading fun
Your child’s reading is not likely to improve rapidly if she sees it as a chore. Try to make it as fun as possible by being creative. For example, if your child loves to read mysteries, why not settle down together with a favorite spy book and read by flashlight?
3. Surround your child with reading material
Many children will read everything they see around them, so the more they see, the better. Keep books and magazines readily available, of course, but also think outside the box. For example, rather than putting the breakfast cereal away as soon as you’ve poured it, why not set it in front of them on the table and let them read the back panel? To help very early readers, put name labels on doors, windows, pieces of furniture to help them learn everyday words.
4. Use a wide variety of formats
If your child really enjoys using an e-reader or computer, allow him to do this for some of his daily reading time. New technologies can be quite educational as long as they don’t completely replace more traditional methods and formats.
5. Provide plenty of cross-curricular reading activities
Offer historical fiction and interesting nonfiction books on a history or geography topic your kids are currently studying. The reading materials will enhance and reinforce the subject matter, and the children won’t even be aware that the task is designed to help improve reading skills.
6. Try audiobooks
Let the kids listen to an audiobook in the car (or at night before they go to sleep). Audiobooks can motivate a reluctant reader, appeal to auditory learners, and foster a real love of books in any child. If they have some daily reading time alone, why not put on an audiobook and encourage them to follow the text with their eyes as they listen? This way, they will learn many new words.
7. Use learning games
Flashcards and other games are invaluable for learning individual words or word families, and you can play a variety of games with them, such as the Card Match Game or Flyswatter Game, both found at Ten Ways to Turn Lessons into Games. With younger children, use colorful picture flashcards to capture their imagination and keep them engaged.
8. Go to the library
The library can open up a whole new world for your children! Not only can they choose books from a wide range of topics and genres, but the skills they develop in searching for books by subject area or alphabetically by author’s name will be helpful to them in the future. Librarians can guide you toward books that are both fun and suitable for each child’s reading level.
9. Find a genre that they really enjoy
As your children get older, help them discover new genres. If they fall in love with fantasy, sci-fi, comedy, mysteries, or historical fiction, let them read from this genre to their heart’s content. This is not to restrict them to a genre, but to help them develop a real passion for reading.
10. Participate in reading contests
During school holidays, many libraries and community centers offer reading groups or reading and story-writing contests. Nothing will motivate your child to read as many books as possible over the summer like the possibility of winning prizes!
Photo: kthompsonstudios, originally made available on Flickr, courtesy of Creative Commons.