By Erin McNeill
Reading is a skill that your child will master at some point. Every child learns at a different pace and in different ways, however, so be patient with the process. In the meantime, here are some tips to encourage healthy reading habits in your child.
Visit the library – The library is a magical place for children! Help your child register for her own library card so that she can check out books independently. This independence will allow her to choose the books she’d like to read and help her become responsible for taking care of those treasures. Encourage her to look for books she is interested in, show her where to ask for help if she can’t find something and allow her to make her own choices.
Read to and with your child daily – About 30 minutes of reading per day is what is recommended to encourage healthy reading habits in your child. Start at a young age by reading to your child and then gradually transition to him reading out loud to you. The reading doesn’t have to be done all at once, but can be broken up into smaller, more manageable slices of time.
Role model at home – Children who see the adults around them engaging in reading are more likely to follow your example.
Write short notes to your child – Put them in lunch boxes, backpacks or leave them on the counter for your child to read. You can write about anything; tell her that you love her, leave her a small fact to read or even write down her chores for her!
Ask open-ended questions about the story that you are reading – Asking your child open-ended questions will encourage him to think about what is going to happen next in the story and to put together what has already happened. Ask him how he’d have the story end or to predict what he thinks will happen next in the story. Once you read more of the story, look back on your discussion and compare his thoughts to the actual story line.
Use context to check vocabulary words – Throughout your life you use context to check the meaning of words you don’t know, so encourage your child to do the same. It’s an essential life skill.
Practice writing skills – Reading and writing go hand in hand because you learn one while you are learning the other! Have your child practice sounding out words while she is writing, encourage her to create her own story with illustrations and have her write letters to people in your family (and have others write back to her!).
Let them pick the books that they read – Giving your child ownership of the books he chooses will mean that he is more involved in the reading process from the beginning. Encourage him to read the classics as well, but let him pick out what he is interested in reading.
Make reading fun – While you are reading together have her act out stories, recreate them or illustrate them how she thinks it should be done!
Play reading related games – Choose games that require reading to play together. Games that involve word play (Scrabble or Boggle), games with cards that you read (Fluxx or Pictionary) or games that require you to read spaces (Life or Monopoly) all encourage children to read independently while playing.
It’s important to remain patient and calm during the learning to read process with a young child, help him when he needs help, but stand back and allow him to navigate the words on his own as much as possible. Eventually the day will come that you are sitting side by side on the sofa, each reading your own books, and all that effort and hard work will pay off.