Loving Literature

Ten ways to help your child be an excellent reader.

Reading is the most important habit to instill in children. It increases their vocabulary, which directly increases school performance. Reading also expands kids’ knowledge in every other aspect, and opens their minds to infinite possibilities.

Because children often learn the phonetic combinations necessary for reading and explore literacy on a practical side at school, a love of reading is best fostered at home and supported by you, the parent.

When children are young, take the time to read to them every night and delight in the stories you share. Here are ten tips to make such parent-child reading sessions extraordinary.

  1. Look at the images together. Instead of just reading a book, look at the images with your child and see what they tell you. This teaches your child to observe clues in the images that indicate what is about to happen in the book. Using this strategy assists in developing vocabulary by enabling a child to guess what a new word means just by understanding its context as suggested by images.
  2. Use different voices for different characters in a book. By using a particular voice for the ogre of the story, then altering your voice to portray the little girl the ogre meets, and all of the other characters, you permit your child to fully imagine the story coming to life. Once your child begins to read, even when he or she is not reading aloud, your child will in turn adopt the habit of giving book characters their own voices, which greatly increases reading comprehension skills and fuels the imagination.
  3. Follow with your finger. If your child is just learning to read or is an inexperienced reader, follow the text with your finger as you tell the story. This shows that in the English language we read from left to right. It also confirms that every word you are reading is there on the page. Once your child starts to read, he or she will then visually recognize whole words. This is like watching a movie with subtitles. You don’t need to read the subtitles if you understand the language, but you tend to read them anyway.
  4. After reading to your child, read with your child. When your children are beginning to read alone, still be sure to make reading a wonderful bonding experience by spending time with your kids while they read. Many parents put a lot of effort in teaching their children to read and read to them every night until the kids learn to do it alone. But these parents generally stop reading with their kids once the next generation is able to read. Remember, even though your child can now read, he or she still craves quality time with you and won’t feel the same encouragement about reading without you by your child’s side. Your job then becomes to show your child how awesome it is to read. Continue reading stories with your child on occasion, even when your child can read them individually. Other times, merely sit by your child and read your own book while your youngster reads his or hers. This shows that you enjoy reading while giving the two of you time to bond and allowing your child to share the reading experience with you.
  5. Go out with your child to buy a good book. Make it a trip you spend together, just the two of you. When you take your child to the bookstore, explain that you would like to buy your child a book that he or she chooses. Bookstores have a special feeling to them. They are wonderful places to spend moments browsing. Your child will later think of the happy experience when he or she reads the chosen book at home. And if you prefer, instead of visiting a bookstore, go to the library as a pair to borrow a book instead.
  6. Refer to the stories you read together. In your conversations with your child, casually recall the stories you have read together. Make comments such as, “It’s like that rabbit that we read about in that story that couldn’t get out of his home. Remember?” This makes childhood reading experiences more poignant and teaches your child to enrich one’s personal life with the things learned about through books.
  7. Write a message. When giving your child a book as a gift, write a thoughtful note on the inside, saying how much you look forward to sharing this book with your youngster or how proud you are that your child is reading a lot. This strengthens the bond between the two of you and makes the habit of reading even more meaningful.
  8. Read in front of your child. Children learn by example. If you cherish reading, they learn to cherish reading just by watching you. Cozy up at home with a book you thoroughly enjoy or even the newspaper. Children then see reading as a part of home life, and often start to follow suit as people who read for leisure at home.
  9. Reveal what you have learned from reading. During dinner, or anytime throughout the day, discuss the things you read about in books. Offer insights such as, “This book made be think about the importance of appreciating what you have” or “I loved reading the part where the woman was faced with a life-changing decision. It reminded me of a time when I was young.” When sharing, preface your comment by saying, “I read today,” providing your children with other positive examples of how reading enriches your life. Likewise, tell your family about what you read in the newspaper or what you learned from a magazine or blog.
  10. Give your children’s books to your kids to read. Imagine a day when your 10-year-old son finishes reading a 400-page novel, passes it to you and says, “You should read this mom; I’m sure you’ll love it. It has a really emotional part in it.” This can happen. When you spend years reading together and talking about books with your child, you develop a bond and common interest. Your children can grasp what books appeal to you and vice versa. Likewise, reading creates confidence in children and sets the foundation for them to read more complex stories as they mature. Lay the groundwork by motivating your children to read books you treasured as a child.

Literacy is one of the most important skills you can teach your child. Take the time to foster this skill at home in a way that is fun and appealing, and your child will take pleasure in books rather than view reading as a chore.