Reading is one of the most important skills children learn when they start school. It’s an exciting time for the child and parent when they begin to emerge into the world of literacy. Parents play a critical role in helping their children become competent readers, and it’s easier – and more fun – to take that journey with your child than you might think.
Roeper School Stage II teacher (Kindergarten and 1st grade) Venee Natarajan has been on that journey with her students, and has also pursued additional professional development in early literacy to help her students cultivate a love of reading.
Here, Natarajan offers 13 tips for parents to help increase early literacy at home.
1. Point out words. Start by helping children understand that print is all around them and that letters of the alphabet combine to make words. Labeling objects around the house is one way to increase print knowledge – as is pointing out words wherever you see them on clothing, signs and more.
2. Identify new words. As you read to your child, point out new and exciting words by putting a strong emphasis on the word. Tell your child what the word means and continue using the word throughout your daily activities.
3. Let kids read what they like. Don’t get too hung up on the reading level of the material your child chooses at home, especially as they are just beginning to read independently. It’s more important that children are reading about topics they are interested in. As they get more competent, you can introduce more challenging texts slowly by reading them aloud. Help your child by suggesting chapter-style books that have large print text and some illustrations on the pages.
4. Visit the library. Children should choose their own reading material. Spend afternoons at the library and encourage your child to browse through shelves that they would not normally visit.
5. Make reading interactive. Some kids balk at sitting still for an extended period of time and reading quietly. Instead, toss around a beach ball that has vocabulary words written on it, read words on the sidewalk in a hopscotch fashion, or use everyday items like a baking tray filled with shaving cream or rice to read and write words.
6. Seek additional resources. Keep an open dialogue with your child’s teacher and ask what you can do at home to offer additional literacy practice. If your child is still struggling, ask about additional resources at school or seek a reading tutor on your own.
7. Use technology. Technology can boost kids’ reading skills. Try an iPad Scavenger hunt. Take pictures of different things around the house, have your child find the object and then record the word for the object in a journal or piece of paper. And remember that reading a book on a tablet is still reading – some tablets allow you to block all “fun” apps until they’ve spent a certain amount of time reading. Phonics apps and programs such as Teach Your Monster to Read, Starfall.com, and abcya.com can foster learning while also being enjoyable for kids.
8. Encourage writing. Writing is a critical part of literacy and can feel scary for younger children. Natarajan says making beginning writing feel “safe” helps to foster a sense of confidence within children. Save the spelling lessons for after they are comfortable with sounding out words.
9. Let kids guide you through a story. Sometimes kids are wildly excited about a book you can’t stand. Ask kids to discover the lessons in the story, tell you about the character’s journey from beginning to end, or ask them to make up a different ending.
10. Read a funny book. Joke books are a fun way to get children reading. They might be frowned upon since they do not deliver anything educational, but if they can help your child learn to read and have fun at the same time, then by all means!
11. Establish routines. Set routine times during the day where the whole family reads in or around the house.
12. Start a ‘book club.’ Read the same texts as a family and discuss the story during meal times.
13. Have a movie night. Watch the movie version of a book you love together.
Few things will set your child up for success as much as learning to read. Follow these tips and before you know it, your child will be reading with ease.
Visit roeper.org to learn more about The Roeper School.