Children who love to read improve their literacy skills naturally. According to an article by Kyla Boyse, R.N., for the University of Michigan Health System, parents play a critical role in helping their children develop not only the ability to read but also to enjoy reading. A positive outlook toward improving reading skills helps children garner a love of learning and literacy that improves their reading abilities with each new book. In many ways, parents can incorporate reading into everyday activities designed to make reading skills improve progressively. From problems with dyslexia to phonetic awareness, improving a child’s reading skills doesn’t have to be a chore if parents know how to make reading a fun part of their child’s day.
Go To the Library
Boring libraries are a thing of the past. Many libraries are extremely kid-friendly, offering children’s story time, reading programs, arts and crafts classes and puppetry arts. Any time fun activities take place at the library, a child learns that reading opens up a whole new world of imagination. Sitting in on story time, or catching a puppet show, makes reading seem exciting. Checking out new books for the week begins to feel more like a treat than a burden.
Seek Professional Advice
Some children who already love to read may still have difficulty with fluency or phonetic awareness. Discussing these issues with a child's teacher helps parents approach any shortcomings with the help and support of a professional. A teacher can work in tandem with parents to pinpoint specific areas that need improvement. Teachers have resources and access to proven programs that can make a difference in a child's reading skills.
Read To Children
Its been said time and again that reading to a child improves her confidence and eagerness to read well. Children want to be like their parents. If they see mom or dad can read well, they will want to follow suit. Comprehension and retention improves through hearing stories read aloud. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents read to their children daily, beginning when their child is just six months old. Reading to babies is also an effective way to set a quiet tone to encourage a nap or bedtime. A baby will soon associate the sound of their parent’s soothing reading voice with contentment, which leads to a positive association with reading.
Read With Children
When reading with a child, parents and children can interact and discuss the story. According to the U.S. Department of Education, running an index finger under the line of print helps children begin to notice words and that they have meaning. Very young children begin to realize that the pattern of reading takes place from left to right.
Integrate Reading Into Family Daily Life
Reading doesn't have to be a mundane formal time of serious and concentrated focus. It can mean casually incorporating reading as an aspect of everyday life. Children are curious by nature. Leaving interesting books on coffee tables or kitchen counters is an effective way to entice a child to pick up a book and look at its contents. Parents who read magazines and newspapers are setting an example for their children to do the same.
Many children appreciate the comfort of a quiet area in which to nestle, especially if they are still learning to read out loud. A comfy beanbag next to a tidy bookshelf is inviting for a child (and parent) who have been at school or at a job all day. This quiet environment provides an excellent opportunity for echo reading. In echo reading, a parent reads a line from a book to their child. The child then reads or echoes that same phrase. According to Karen E. Mitchell, M.ED., you can increase the number of sentences gradually as a child becomes more confident and adept at echo reading.
Memorize Short Books
Memorizing books boosts a child’s confidence in his ability to read. Mitchell adds that memorizing books also helps children learn about the flow and rhythm of language in an enjoyable way. Adding movement such as dance moves also helps bring the language to life for children who are just beginning to read out loud.
Discuss New Words
Many children get excited about explaining new words to their parents. Children who are encouraged to discuss new words are more likely to remember their meaning. According to the National Institute for Literacy, children should be encouraged to make up sentences using the new word they have learned. Using new words in different situations helps improve a child’s vocabulary, comprehension and knowledge of the world around them.
Learn Root Words, Prefixes and Suffixes
Children who understand basic prefixes, suffixes and root words will have an easier time understanding what they are reading. The National Institute for Literacy encourages parents to point out root words, suffixes and prefixes in books and then discuss how they are related to other words with the same components. A good prefix example for young children is the word "preschool." The prefix "pre" refers to before. The fact that preschool comes before kindergarten is a concept many children can readily understand. They soon learn that "pre" is widely used as the prefix for many other words.
Children respond well to parental encouragement when the going gets rough. Remember that no two children improve alike. Pressure and overly high expectations will instill a sense of discouragement in children who need to improve their reading skills. Teachers play a big role in helping parents understand what is normal and what needs attention in terms of childhood reading levels. Children posses individual rates of making progress in reading, so parents should not compare their child's reading skills with other children's progress. Parents who provide a nurturing environment full of reading material designed to pique their child’s interest are encouraging one of the most important aspects of improving literacy, a love of reading.
Based in Atlanta, Kristen Noelle has been writing since 2007. Her work has appeared in AOL News, "Mothering Magazine," "Maui News," "Christian Science Monitor," "Forsyth County News" and the "Forsyth Herald." Noelle studies comparative literature at the University of Georgia.