It’s easier for kids to build reading skills when they enjoy reading. They practice more, and they feel more motivated to take on reading challenges. Try these tips to encourage your child to read — and hopefully build a love of reading.
1. Read it again and again.
Encourage your child to read familiar books. If your child wants to take the same book out of the library for the 100th time, that’s just fine. Re-reading helps build speed and accuracy. And that can help build confidence for kids who learn and think differently.
2. Make reading real.
Connect what your child reads with what’s happening in real life. For example, if you’re reading a story about basketball, ask questions about when your child learned to shoot hoops and how similar it was to the kids’ experience in the story.
You can also look for follow-up activities that make stories come to life. If the book references kites, ask your child to brainstorm fun kite-related activities, like how to make a kite. Hands-on activities like these can keep kids engaged with the topic.
3. Don’t leave home without something to read.
Bring along a kid-friendly book or magazine any time you know your child will have to wait in a doctor’s office, at the DMV, or anywhere else. Stories can help keep your child occupied. And the experience will show that you can always fit in time to read.
4. Dig deeper into the story.
Help your child engage with a story by asking questions about the characters’ thoughts, actions, or feelings: “Why does Jack think it’s a good idea to buy the magic beans? How does his mother feel after she finds out?” Encourage your child to connect to the story through experiences you may have had together.
5. Make reading a free-time activity.
Try to avoid making TV the reward and reading the punishment. Remind your child there are fun things to read besides books. And set a good example for your child by spending some of your free time reading instead of watching TV — and then talking about why you enjoyed it.
6. Take your time.
When your child is sounding out an unfamiliar word, leave plenty of time to do it, and praise the effort. Treat mistakes as an opportunity for improvement. Imagine your child misreads listen as list. Try re-reading the sentence together and ask which word makes more sense. Point out the similarities between the two words and the importance of noticing the final syllable.
7. Pick books at the right level.
Help your child find books that aren’t too hard or too easy. Kids have better reading experiences when they read books at the right level. You can check your choices by having your child read a few pages to you. Then ask questions about what was read. If your child struggles with reading the words or retelling the story, try a different book.
8. Play word games.
Use word games to help make your child more aware of the sounds in words. Say tongue twisters like “She sells seashells by the seashore.” Sing songs that use wordplay, like Schoolhouse Rock’s “Conjunction Junction.” Or swap out the letters in words to turn them into new words. (For example, map can become nap or rap if you change the first letter, man if you change the final letter, and mop if you change the middle.)
9. Read to each other.
Take turns reading aloud during story time. As your child grows as a reader, you can gradually read less and let your child take the lead more often. If you have younger kids, too, encourage your older one to take on the responsibility of reading to them.
10. Point out the relationships between words.
Talk about words whenever you can. Explain how related words have similar spellings and meanings. Show how a noun like knowledge, for example, relates to a verb like know. Point out how the “wild” in wild and wilderness are spelled the same but pronounced differently.
11. Make books special.
Kids who have trouble with reading may try to avoid it because it makes them feel anxious or frustrated. Try to create positive feelings around reading by making it a treat. Get your child a library card or designate special reading time for just the two of you. Give books as gifts or rewards.
12. Make reading creative.
Change up reading activities to play to your child’s strengths. If your child loves to draw or make things, create a book together. Fold paper and staple it to resemble a book. Work together to write sentences on each page and have your child add illustrations or pictures. Then read it out loud together.
13. Let your child choose.
14. Look for a series of books.
Ask a librarian or a teacher for suggestions about popular book series your child might like. Reading a series of books helps kids get familiar with the tone, characters, and themes. This familiarity can make the next books in the series easier to grasp.
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About the author
About the author
Louise Baigelman, MEd is the executive director of Story Shares, which distributes high-quality stories for teen and adult beginning readers.