A critical milestone for students on the path to graduation is reading proficiently by third grade. Studies show that missing this benchmark can irreparably harm their chances of graduating on time. Sadly, one in three children throughout the U.S. arrive in kindergarten without the skills necessary for lifelong learning. Reading aloud helps children engage in stories, to talk, learn and expand their view of the world.
While the task of promoting reading in the home may seem overwhelming, there are several simple and fun ways parents can help promote a love of literacy to last a lifetime.
1. Read aloud to your child.
According to the 1985 report “Becoming a Nation of Readers,” reading aloud is “the single most important activity for eventual success in reading.” Today research still supports this, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents read to their children starting in infancy. In Orange County, United Way leads a Read Aloud 15 Minutes program, which is now followed by after-school programs, camps and schools. The program was established to encourage parents to read aloud to their kids 15 minutes every day from birth to age five.
2. Create a print-rich environment in your home.
Research shows that the more reading materials children have in their homes, the more likely they are to succeed at reading. Fill your home with books, magazines and newspapers.
3. Help your child pick a book at the right level.
It’s good for children to explore a variety of books and hear books read aloud that are above their reading level. However, elementary-age children need independent practice at their reading level every day.
4. Carve out a cozy corner to read.
Whether it’s a reading tent, comfy bean bag chair, or some giant pillows, give your child a snug book nook for reading.
5. Partner with your public library.
The public library is a phenomenal resource for parents, with plenty of free activities, classes, and displays to get the whole family excited about reading.
6. Let your child get a library card.
Having their own library card gives children a sense of independence and may open the doors to a lifetime of reading – a priceless offer for a card that is free!
7. Encourage your child to try different genres.
Lead the way by reading aloud at least one book from each genre every year (historical fiction, mystery, fantasy, folktale, poetry, non-fiction, autobiography, biography, and realistic fiction.)
8. Search for “rare” words or words your child doesn’t know when you read aloud.
Build your child’s vocabulary by defining words in the text that your child might not know, or see if he or she can figure out what the word means from its context in the story.
9. Discover a fiction series that interests your child.
Many times I read the first book in a series aloud to my children, and then they become so interested, they finish the series on their own.
10. Read classics with your child.
Chances are you will both learn new words and ideas. Some good ones to try are The Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Charlotte’s Web, A Wrinkle in Time, Treasure Island, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, and Winnie the Pooh.
11. Volunteer to read aloud to your child’s class.
My daughter’s kindergarten teacher invited a “Mystery Reader” to her classroom on a regular basis. The Mystery Reader would knock on the door and the students waited excitedly to see which parent would be that day’s reader.
12. When you read aloud as a family, do activities related to the book.
For example, read Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco and then make the recipe for the cake at the end of the book.
13. Subscribe to a children’s magazine.
From National Geographic Kids, to Cobblestone and American Girl, there are a plethora of kids’ magazines to choose from. Lego Club Jr. is a free magazine you can sign up for online.
14. Say okay to comic books and graphic novels.
They are another interesting way to diversify your child’s reading.
15. Let your child read on screens, but also encourage them to read traditional books.
Reading devices are another way to get your child interested in reading, but research suggests that reading along to interactive screens takes away the important work a child’s imagination needs to do when they are hearing or reading a conventional book.
16. When life is uncertain, read a calming book.
If your child is anxious about a life change or upcoming challenge, read a book about a similar situation together. Some examples: a new baby coming home, going into the hospital, moving away, or feeling different at school.
17. Visit your child’s favorite author’s website.
Find out how the author’s books came to life.
18. Ask your child’s opinions about books.
Does he or she like the story? What problem does the character need to solve? What would your child do if he or she were in the main character’s shoes?
19. Tickle a funny bone.
From Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia to Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine or Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, a funny story is a good way to hook a book lover.
20. Be a lifelong reader yourself.
Model reading every day to your children, and they will be more likely to embrace the same literacy values.
By Janeen Lewis
Reading Resources for Parents
The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
Outlines why, how, and when to read aloud to children and includes a treasury of recommended books for kids of all ages.
The Reading Promise
My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma. After reading together for 100 consecutive nights, a father and his fourth-grade daughter continued their “streak” until she left for college.
Give Your Child the World
Raising Globally Minded Kids One book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin and Tsh Oxenreider. Includes a reading treasury of books from around the world.
Full of tips, resources and book recommendations for parents of kids of all ages and reading levels.
Not just for teachers, Scholastic has a section for parents that includes resources, book recommendations and more.