By Louise Baigelman
Developing a love of reading can help grade-schoolers build and reinforce their reading skills. Enthusiasm can help kids with learning and attention issues overcome reading challenges. Use these tips to encourage your child to read.
Encourage your child to re-read his favorites. If he wants to take the same book out of the library for the 100th time, that’s just fine. Re-reading can help him build speed and accuracy. For children with learning and attention issues, re-reading books they’re already familiar with can help build confidence. Plus, re-reading books at home with a loved one helps them experience feelings of success in a friendly and low-risk environment.
Connect what your child reads with what happens in his life. For example, if he’s reading a story about a penguin learning to swim, ask him about the most recent time he dipped his toe in a pool. Look for follow-up activities that can make stories come to life. If he’s reading a book in which there are kites, ask your child to brainstorm book-related activities he might enjoy such as making or flying a kite. Hands-on activities can keep him engaged with the topic.
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 also show him that you can always fit in time to read!
Help your child engage with a story he’s read or one you’re reading to him. Ask him 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 the story to his own thoughts and actions.
Try to avoid presenting TV as a reward and reading as a punishment. Instead, looks for ways to highlight the different kinds of enjoyment you get from TV shows and from books or magazines. And be sure to set a good example for your child by spending some of your free time reading instead of watching TV—and by explaining why you did.
When your child is trying to sound out an unfamiliar word, let him have the time he needs to do it. Praise his efforts. Treat mistakes not as failure, but as an opportunity for improvement. For example, if he misreads listen as list, re-read the sentence together and ask him which word makes more sense. Point out the similarities between the two words and the importance of noticing the final syllable. Your patience can help him see mistakes as learning experiences, not reasons to give up.
Help your child find books that aren’t too difficult or too easy. The aim is to give him lots of successful reading experiences at the level that is just right for him. Check to be sure your choices work by having your child read a few pages to you, and then ask him about what he’s read. If he struggles with reading the words or retelling the story, encourage him to pick a different book.
Use word games to help make your child more aware of the sounds in words and how they connect to written letters. Say tongue twisters like “She sells seashells by the seashore.” Sing songs that involve wordplay such as Schoolhouse Rock’s “Conjunction Junction.” 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.
Even older kids love having a special time when they read with their parents. So start taking turns reading aloud during your shared story time. As your child grows as a reader, let him gradually take the lead when you’re reading together. If he has younger siblings, encourage him to take on the responsibility of reading to the little ones, too.
When your child makes a mistake, quietly and patiently point out the letters he overlooked or read incorrectly. Allow him to go back and try again, paying attention to all the letters in the word this time. Once he’s gotten it, make sure he re-reads the sentence so he doesn’t lose the meaning of what he’s just read. By gently making sure your child corrects his mistakes, you can reinforce proper reading without making him feel that he’s failed.
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. If your child has difficulty with reading, you can help make things easier by building his familiarity with written words and making connections to spoken language, such as pointing to wild and wilderness and saying these words out loud to show how the first syllable is spelled the same but pronounced differently.
Kids can benefit from seeing comprehension strategies in action. Explain the importance of re-reading a sentence if you don’t quite understand it. This is especially important for kids with learning and attention issues. Practice together how to summarize a story in a few sentences or how to make predictions about what might happen next. Demonstrate how to tell what a character is feeling based on her actions. These strategies can all help your child build comprehension skills and actively engage in reading.
If your child has difficulty with reading, he may try to avoid the task because it makes him feel anxious and frustrated. But you can create positive feelings around reading by making it a treat. Take your child to the library, help him get his own library card, read with him and buy him books as gifts.
Your child may have issues with reading but excel in other areas such as art, math, or even writing. Change up his reading activities to incorporate some of his strengths. For example, 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 his own illustrations or photographs. Then read it aloud together.
Expose your child to different kinds of books so he’ll experience different types of writing. Some kids prefer nonfiction books; some love only fantasy. Your child might be less threatened by a comic book than a traditional chapter book. Help him learn to love reading by giving him lots of options to consider. And be careful not to impose your own reading preferences on him.
Ask a librarian or teacher for suggestions about popular book series that your child might enjoy. Reading a series of books lets your child build familiarity with tone, characters and themes. This familiarity can make the next books in the series easier to grasp. Series also provide your child with a natural choice about what to read next after he finishes a book he likes.
Your child can start developing good reading habits at home before he even learns to read. Here are some simple tips to help you raise a reader.
If your teen struggles with reading, getting her to sit down and actually do it can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be a battle. Use these strategies to encourage her to read more.
Louise Baigelman is the executive director of Story Shares, which distributes high-quality stories for teen and adult beginning readers.
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