How to Raise a Reader

Ready to Read Michigan offers five easy ways to help your child develop a love of reading at an early age.

Early literacy can prep kids to start school with a foundation for learning that breeds success.

That’s why the Library of Michigan created the “Ready to Read Michigan” program. With pamphlets and information distributed in libraries across the state, librarians can help parents raise educated Michiganders.

Kids who already grasp the basics of reading find it easier to understand what they’re learning. When kids start behind as readers, the rest of learning becomes frustrating and a struggle.

The great news is that parents can start kids on a path to success almost at birth.

Ready to Read Michigan” provides five easy practices to help parents raise readers: read, write, talk, sing and play.

Read.

Establish a routine of reading as early as you can. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages reading to babies within the first six months. (Even if you find that you’re focused on your phone while you’re feeding your infant, read aloud the story on your screen in a soothing voice.)

As kids age, introduce more age-appropriate books. Board books with textures that they can see and feel help babies learn their senses.

The AAP also recommends pointing to pictures in books and describing the images outside of the text of the story.

Work reading into your routine so that you clock about 20 minutes each day, even if it means adding reading at bathtime to toddlers or listening to audiobooks together while driving back and forth to school. Keep this age-appropriate, because some younger children won’t be attentive for the full 20 minutes, so it’s OK to break it up to multiple times throughout the day.

Write.

As soon as your child can hold a crayon, put it under a piece of blank paper (or in the spring and summer, chalk and a sidewalk will do the trick). Scribbles quickly turn into recognizable people, animals and objects.

Early writing helps with letter formation and the concepts of how letters create words. When your kids draw pictures, be sure to ask them to tell you stories about the characters that they drew (even if what your daughter says is a dog really looks like alien pizza).

Talk.

Even if your baby can’t talk back, talk to your baby. Tell her about what you’re doing: “Mommy is cleaning the plates and putting them in the dishwasher.” This will help the understanding of how language works, which is the first step toward learning to talk and then read.

With older kids, use new words in conversations, and use them at different times. That way, when early readers run into those words as they’re reading, they already have the context clues to know what the word is.

Finally, talk to your kids asking open-ended questions so they’ll have to answer more than “yes” or “no.” Instead of asking if your son had a good day at school, ask “What was your favorite thing that you did today?”

Sing.

Songs allow words to be pronounced slowly and in rhythm, which helps younger children learn to formulate language.

When it comes to older kids, they start to recognize words because of repetition (think of how many times the word “sun” is used in “Mr. Golden Sun”) and they understand concepts like rhyming.

Even if clapping isn’t required in a song, clap the rhythm with your child. This will help install an understanding of syllables.

Play.

This one seems so easy because kids love to play. Now, it’s about how you’re incorporating storytelling into how they play.

With younger babies and toddlers, use puppets, favorite stuffed animals or even plastic Little People toys to retell stories that your kids already know. Have the characters interact with your kiddo and let her touch, feel, and it’s OK to taste, too, as the story progresses.

Help older kids tell their own stories. They learn about sequencing and order (first, next, the end), and how to put sentences together. If your child is still learning to write, help him create the story, then let him draw pictures, like a comic book.

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