Reading is the foundation for learning and creating an at-home reading program is one of the best ways for parents to foster a lifelong love of learning. But it can be hard work to make children want to read, especially with television and video games as distractions.
Studies show that kids who love to read tend to do better in school. Children often acquire their love of reading at home from parents who are passionate about and encourage a love of reading. Here are some tips to help parents build at-home reading programs.
Start Early: Read aloud to your child from birth. Just hearing your voice is a good early introduction to reading. Buy board and cloth books as some of your baby’s first toys. Put the books in your diaper bag and pull them out at any opportunity. A study by the National Institute for Education and National Academy of Education found that reading aloud is the most important activity parents and teachers can do to build literacy skills in early learners.
Read Daily: Reading with your child consistently is the most important thing you can do to help build a love of learning. Dedicate time each day to building reading skills. Read books aloud and point to the words as you speak. Make reading time a ritual that you can both look forward to sharing. Make sure your child has an understanding of the context of the story or the book. Point out the cover, the title and the author. Take time to review the synopsis on the back or inside cover. Set up the story by telling your child what the story is about. For example, say, “This is a story about a mouse and cat who are friends.” This will help increase understanding and give context before you start reading. Let your child be involved and take ownership of reading time. Allow her to pick books they would like to read. Go to the library or the bookstore to select new material. Let your child have a library card. Keep library books in one location to simplify the return process.
Read Aloud: Reading aloud is one of the best ways for early readers to learn sounds and letters. As your child is able to read better, encourage him to read aloud to you, other family members and friends. Be careful when correcting mistakes. Only do it if it changes the word or sentence meaning, and do it in a way that will not make him feel bad. Even after your child is reading on his own, continue to read aloud together. This will help strengthen your child’s vocabulary, reading comprehension and listening skills. Reading together also provides an opportunity to connect with each other and discuss what you have been reading. Be sure to ask open-ended questions as frequently as possible. For example, if you are reading Snow White you could ask, “Do you think the evil queen is a mean person?” It’s very important for a child to start deriving comprehension from text, even before they can read the words themselves.
Be Social: Select a book as a family and read it together. You could even create a family book club or extend it beyond your home and invite other parents and kids from school or the neighborhood to participate. A book group with kids of all ages can be a confidence booster. Kids can ask questions, share opinions and discuss ideas. Check with your local library branch. Many libraries offer reading groups and other programs geared toward different reading levels and interests.
Think Variety: Keep a variety of reading material and home. There are lots of educational magazines geared toward children at all reading levels. A study by the U.S. Department of Education found the most proficient readers had a host of reading materials available at home. Let your child build a personal library, and give them a bookshelf in an area that can be easily accessed without the help of an adult. Don’t frown on comics. They are a good way to inspire even the most reluctant readers. And games such as Scrabble Junior, Boggle Junior and Think Fun’s What’s Gnu can be effective reading and spelling tools. Children also enjoy using technology. There are online-based reading programs, such as StudyDog, which addresses critical reading skills, including phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Listening to audio books together can also be part of your home reading program. It isn’t technically reading, but it’s a great way to teach listening skills and introduce new vocabulary.
Set Goals and Rewards: Set reading goals with your child and provide incentives to help jump-start her interest. Rewards can be as simple as adding a sticker to a chart for every completed book.
Cater to Interests: Reading about something that sparks their interest encourages children to reach their reading goals. According to Scholastic, 91 percent of kids are more likely to finish books they select themselves.
Be a Good Example: Parents are the best teachers and children often emulate their parents. If your child knows you value reading, they will take a greater interest in it.
Provide Encouragement: Always encourage your child to reach her reading goals. Simple verbal praise is often the best reward and motivator. Not only is it helpful in building self esteem, but it will also help her continue to grow as a reader.
Creating a strong at home reading program can be a major piece of the foundation to your child’s overall educational development. Parents should be involved in their child’s reading progress throughout their school career. Start early to create a healthy reading environment that inspires a love of both reading and learning.
Deme Clainos is the CEO and founder of StudyDog, an online reading program for elementary school students.