How to Teach Kids to Read

Simple Strategies to Help Your Child Become a Successful Reader

Learning to read is a complex process. Although parents want to support their child’s reading, many are unsure of what to do. You and your child can do a few simple activities together before she begins school to start fostering her love of reading. As she gets older, you can support what she’s learning at school by reinforcing reading behaviors at home.

Pre-Reading Strategies

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Reading aloud to your young child has tremendous benefits. It is through being read to that she starts to learn concepts such as turning the page when she's done and that letters make up words. Reading aloud is also a great opportunity to encourage comprehension by asking your child to make predictions and talking about the story. As you model the reading process, your child may begin to “read” her own books by making up stories to match the pictures. You can also start helping her identify letters, beginning with ones that have significance to her, such as the letters in her name. She can use magnetic letters, a sand tray or playdough to make words. You can also help her begin printing her name and other words she shows an interest in.

Early Reading Behaviors

In order to be successful readers, children must first master four early reading behaviors. First, they must learn reading direction. They must also learn one-to-one correspondence, which means they can point to each word as they read. These are two behaviors you can reinforce at home using simple patterned books with one line of text per page. Even if your child has memorized a favorite book, she can practice tracking the words with her finger as she reads. This will help set her up for success when she begins reading books with multiple lines. Children must also learn how to find a known word within a book. High-frequency words are the ones we find most often in books, such as “the,” “a,” “I” and “it.” You can ask your child’s teacher for a list of words they are learning in class or look online for a list of high-frequency words geared to your child’s age. Help her learn these words by using flashcards or playing games like Go Fish and Memory with them. The final early reading behavior is finding unknown words in books. Children do this by using knowledge of sounds to locate words on a page. For example, a child who knows the sound an "s" makes can use that information to find the word “snake.” Help your child learn letter-sounds through songs, poems and picture books.

Reading Every Day

Little Girl And Father Reading Book Together

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When your child has started to read, one of the best things you can do to support her is to listen to her read every day. Beginning books will be short and will only require a few minutes of your time. Your child’s teacher can provide guidance about choosing books that are at an appropriate level of difficulty. It is best to spend most of your time listening, helping when asked and not constantly jumping in to correct your child. If she is struggling with a book, this is usually a sign that it’s too hard. Selecting an easier book will ease her frustration and help build her confidence.

When Your Child Is Struggling

There is great variance in what age children become proficient readers. If however, time is passing and your child is struggling with reading, set up a meeting with her teacher to take a proactive approach. The teacher can shed light on what aspects of reading your child is finding challenging. She may need more practice with recognizing letters and sounds, may need to practice high-frequency words so she knows them automatically, could be struggling to understand what she reads or may need to learn a repertoire of strategies for figuring out unknown words. Her teacher is a great resource for learning more about your child’s progress and what types of activities you could do at home to support her. There may be websites, apps or a particularly engaging reading series that could help your child.

Your priority as you support your child’s reading should be helping her foster a love of books and building her self-confidence as she begins seeing herself as a reader. Keep reading activities together fun and light, and partner with your child’s teacher when you have questions or concerns.