How can I encourage my child to
"The majority of reading problems
faced by today's adolescents and adults
could have been avoided or resolved in
the early years of childhood."
--National Research Council (1998)
As a parent of a young child, you are
probably more concerned about your
child's progress in reading than in any
other subject taught in school. To
achieve in math, science, English,
history, geography, or any other
subject, your child must have reading
skills that are developed to the point
that most of them are automatic. He
can't be struggling to recognize words
in a school textbook when he is trying
to read quickly to grasp the meaning of
the text. In other words, children must
learn to read before they can read to
Why Should Parents
Encourage Children To Read?
Many parents recognize the value and
enjoyment of reading to their young
children but perhaps are not clear about
how they can help their children become
better readers. Because reading is so
important to children's success in
school, parents can and should help
their children become interested in
reading and encourage growth in their
reading skills. "Learning to read is a
lengthy and difficult process for many
children, and success in learning to
read is based in large part on
developing language and literacy-related
skills very early in life" (Lyon, 1997).
Young children develop a more positive
attitude toward reading if they
experience warm and close contact with
their parents while reading.
What Are Some Ways To
Encourage Young Readers?
The most important thing to remember is
that reading should be an enjoyable
experience. The following activities can
help you stimulate your child's interest
- Talk with your infant or young
child before he learns to read.
Talking with your child before he even
speaks will help him learn important
language skills. Most children need
strong oral language skills if they are
to develop as readers and writers. Using
short, simple sentences, you can talk
about your daily activities, what he is
seeing and doing, his environment, sizes
of objects, the shapes of signs, and so
- Read to and with your child at
least 30 minutes each day. Your
child will gain awareness of the
conventions of reading (left to right,
top to bottom), and even the very young
will gain vocabulary. Running your index
finger under the print as you read will
help your child notice that printed
words have meaning. Gradually you can
ask her to identify letters and sounds.
- Sing songs and recite poems and
rhymes that have repetitive sounds.
Repetition makes it easier for your
child to pick up on the patterns in the
sounds you make.
- Make sure your child's day care
provider, nursery school teacher, or
preschool teacher reads aloud daily and
offers books for your child to look at.
- Model good reading habits.
Help your child understand that reading
is important by letting him see you
reading maps, books, recipes, and
directions. Suggest reading as a
free-time activity. Keep books that are
of interest to your child in an easy
place for him to reach.
- Visit your local library.
While you're there you can sign your
child up for preschool story time and
let her choose some books to take home.
What Are Some Ways To
Encourage School-Age Readers?
Once your child begins nursery school,
preschool, or elementary school, you
should work with her teacher to improve
her reading skills. Many teachers are
now sending home practical ideas for
parents to use with their school-age
children to help them develop skills and
to encourage good reading habits. Ask
your child's teacher for these practice
activities. By reinforcing the skills
your child's teacher emphasizes, you
will be supplementing what he has
learned about reading throughout the
school day. Additional ways to encourage
your school-age child to read are listed
- Continue being a good role model.
Let your child see you read.
- Encourage your child to read on
her own at home. Reading at home can
help your child do better in school.
- Keep a variety of reading
materials in the house. Make sure to
have reading materials for enjoyment as
well as for reference.
- Encourage your child to practice
reading aloud. Frequently listen to
your child read out loud and praise her
often as she does so. Offer to read
every other page or even every other
chapter to your child. Have
conversations and discussions about the
book with your child.
- Write short notes for your child
to read. Write down his weekly
household responsibilities for him to
keep track of or put a note in his lunch
- Encourage activities that require
reading. Cooking (reading a recipe),
constructing a kite (reading
directions), or identifying a bird's
nest or a shell at the beach (reading a
reference book) are some examples.
- Establish a reading time, even if
it's only 10 minutes each day. Make
sure there is a good reading light in
your child's room and stock her
bookshelves with books and magazines
that are easy to both read and reach.
- Talk with your child. Talking
makes children think about their
experiences more and helps them expand
their vocabularies. Ask your child to
give detailed descriptions of events and
to tell complete stories.
- Give your child writing
materials. Reading and writing go
hand in hand. Children want to learn to
write and to practice writing. If you
make pencils, crayons, and paper
available at all times, your child will
be more inclined to initiate writing
activities on his own.
- Restrict television time. The
less time your child spends watching
television, the more time he will have
for reading-related activities.
- Visit the library once a week.
Have your child apply for her own
library card so she can check out books
on her own for schoolwork and for
pleasure reading. Ask your child to
bring home a library book to read to a
younger sibling and encourage her to
check out books on tape that she can
listen to on long car trips.
- Work in partnership with your
child's school. The more you know
about the type of reading program his
school follows, the more you can help by
supplementing the program at home. Offer
to volunteer in the classroom or school
library as often as your schedule
allows. Ask the school for parent
To help your child succeed in school,
you should do your part to ensure that
he or she starts school with a strong
foundation in language and
literacy-related skills and a desire to
learn to read. In the early elementary
years--from first through third
grades--your child will continue
learning how to read, which is a complex
process that is difficult for some and
easy for others. Take care during these
years not to overemphasize the process
of learning to read while encouraging
your child to practice reading often.
Reading for pleasure and interest will
help your child to develop reading
skills and will give your child the
opportunity to practice these skills in
The following organizations offer more
information about early reading:
U.S. Department of Education
600 Independence Avenue, Room 6100
Washington, DC 20202
Toll Free: 1-800-USA-LEARN
Toll Free TDD: 1-800-437-0833
American Library Association
Association for Library Service to
50 East Huron
Chicago, IL 60611
Toll Free: 1-800-545-2433
ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading,
Smith Research Center
2805 East 10th Street, Suite 150
Bloomington, IN 47408-2698
Toll Free: 1-800-759-4723
International Reading Association
Public Information Office
800 Barksdale Road
P.O. Box 8139
Newark, DE 19714-8139
Reading Is Fundamental (RIF)
P.O. Box 23444
Washington, DC 20026
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