Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Build Those Reading Muscles!

Reading is one of the most important and fundamental skills your child will ever learn. In my experience what you do to foster your child's reading habits can almost be more important than the work your child's teacher does to accomplish the same goal. Of course it is very important for your child to have a quality teacher teaching them reading skills using a high quality curriculum, but your support for your child's reading habit is essential. With that in mind, we now need to answer the question of how you can support your child's reading habits and help them to become proficient readers and lovers of literature. Below are ten of the best tips I have found. I have also included a list of useful blog posts, websites, and books.

1. Make reading a priority: Show your children that reading is important to you. This can be accomplished through the rest of the tips below, but it really starts with your mindset and your home environment. Do you encourage your child to read? Do you have books, magazines, or newspapers in your home for your child to explore and read? Do you set aside time for reading for your children and yourself? Do you talk about reading? When a child sees that reading is important they will be more motivated to work at it.

2. Model reading behavior: It's important for your child to practice reading daily, but it is also important for you to practice reading daily! Statistics show that those who read more make more money and are more successful! Reading nonfiction books can help you build and stretch your skills, while fiction books can help you to relax and exercise your imagination. When your child sees you reading they come to understand that reading is an enjoyable activity and part of regular daily life. It doesn't matter what you read, just read!

3. Read to your child: I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to read to your child. Reading to your child models fluency and emotion while reading. It also shows your child that reading is something important to you. When a child sees that their parent values reading, they will be more apt to value reading as well. Finally, reading to your child allows for a wonderful bonding time. Discussing what was read can lead to discussions of their ideas, imagination, and daily life.

4. Find books your child enjoys: If you don't enjoy something, you simply don't want to do it. While it's OK to encourage your child to read the books you loved as a kid, it's also important to understand that they may not love them as much as you did. As much as you might prefer your child to read classic literature, it is more important that they are reading, When children find books they enjoy and learn to enjoy reading, they are more likely to move on to more challenging books, but they have to enjoy reading first. Allowing children to choose books they like is even more important for the struggling reader. When it's already tough to read, reading a boring book makes you want to try even less. Maybe your child has to start reading with graphic novels about Legos, It might not seem wonderful to you, but reading is reading.

5. Have your child read to you: This one may take a little patience. It can be very enjoyable to hear your child read to you, but it can also be tempting to just take over and read for them when they begin to struggle with fluency. Be sure to allow your child to try sounding out the word, using context clues, and looking at pictures before telling them the word. Try not to correct their reading too thoroughly so as to not let them become discouraged. If your child does not like to read, a great way to motivate your child is to take turns reading from the book. You read one page and they read the next, or break it down into paragraphs, sentences, even alternating words. Just be sure to let your child know that you are proud of the reading skills they are building.

6.  Talk about what your child is reading: At some point your child ill probably be doing more independent reading than reading to you or with you. First, let me say that this should not discourage you from continuing to read aloud to your child. You should continue to read aloud to your kids as long as they will let you even if it's just a short passage from the newspaper! As your children read more and more independently, it's important to keep up with the books they are reading. It is a great idea to read the same books as them so that you can talk about the books more in depth, but even without reading the books you can have great conversations with your children about their reading. Ask them what they are reading. What is the book about? Do they like it? What's they're favorite/least favorite part so far? What are they going to read next? Having daily conversations about reading continues to show your child that reading is important.

7. Teach phonics and phonemic awareness (letter sounds):  As a reading tutor, one of the problems my struggling readers often had was the inability to slow down and sound out words. Although we want kids to become fluent and not have to sound out words forever, this is a beginning skill that they need until they begin to learn, recognize, and memorize more complex words. From the time your little ones start to recognize their letters, you can talk about the sounds each letter makes. In the past I've found that phonics flashcards are an easy and fun way to practice letter sounds and blends. As students begin to read, encourage them to sound out words before telling them what the word is. By teaching this basic skill, students are able to learn to read independently.

8. Set reading goals or challenges: As with any sport or skill, the best way to stretch is to challenge yourself! Work with your child to set a reading goal appropriate to their reading level. This could be as simple as reading for 30 minutes every day. Maybe your avid reader needs a bit bigger of a challenge like reading a different genre of book every month or reading a certain number of classic novels by the end of the year. Since our 3rd-5th grade students participate in the Maud Hart Lovelace Award program, perhaps you could challenge your child to read all 12 of the nominated books rather than just the three they need to read in order to vote. Get creative. Use the internet for ideas. And don't forget to set a reading goal for yourself as well!

9.  Visit the public library often: This goes along with allowing your child to find books that they enjoy. By visiting the public library, your child can search through a much wider variety of books than we have available at school or you have available at home. You can help your child to select books that fit their reading level and interests. The staff at the public library are available to make suggestions and help you to find just what you are looking for. On top of the numerous books that the public library has to offer, the public library also often offers a variety of activities for people of all ages. You can get your little ones excited about reading by stopping in for a family story time. Your teens can join a book club to talk to other teens about the books that interest them, and you can join a book club or find a helpful class as well.

10. Get outside help when needed: Finally, it's important to recognize when your child is truly struggling and you are no longer providing enough help for them. Sometimes working with your child on reading skills and school work can just become too overwhelming and stressful to the point of hurting your relationship with your child. If this seems to be the case, it may be time to think about finding a tutor to work with your child. The first step to take would be talking to the child's teacher for any suggestions. There may be an after school program that your child would be able to join for support, or the teacher may be able to suggest a tutor that would work well with your child. You can also find tutors on websites like or If your child needs a tutor, it's important to remember that neither you or your child is a failure. We can all use extra help from time to time.

Resources and Further Reading: 
Braxton, B. (n.d.). Dr. Booklove's 2016 reading challenges. Retrieved from

Braxton, B. (2016, June). Reading with your child. Retrieved from

Braxton, B. (n.d.). The art of reading aloud. Retrieved from 

Burns, M., Griffin, P., & Snow, C. (Eds.). (1999). Starting out right: A guide to promoting children's reading success. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

Fox, M. (2005). Reading magic: How your child can learn to read before school and other read-aloud miracles. London: Pan Macmillan

French, J. (2004). Rocket your child into reading. Melbourne, Australia: Angus & Robertson.

Jenkins, J. (2016). 10 things parents need to know to help a struggling reader. Retrieved from

Jennings, P. (2008). The reading bug—and how you can help your child to catch it. London: Penguin UK.

Shanahan, T. (2015, September). 11 ways parents can help their children read. Retrieved from

Trelease, J. (2013). The read-aloud handbook. New York: Penguin.

Wilhelm, C. (2014, August). Your child has nightly reading homework. What should YOU be doing? Retrieved  from