When teachers and parents support each other, great things happen. I really appreciate it when parents ask me what they can do to help build their child’s reading skills. I’ve spent many years reflecting upon how I became a skilled reader and I came to the realization that my journey didn’t start in the classroom—it started in my home! It’s important to note that everyone’s home environment is different and not all children have access to the same resources, so I’ve put together a list of simple ways to support language skills development in your home.
Ideas to help boost your child’s reading skills
1. Dedicate a shelf in your home for books. The bookshelf should be visible in a space shared by your family. This sets the tone that books are important in your home. Place your favorite books on the shelf, or books that you would like to read in the future. Each family member should have a space on the shelf for their books.
2. Take your child to the local library to sign out books (perhaps as a reward for positive behavior). Walk, ride a bike, or use public transport if you do not own a car.
3. Get books as gifts at book sales/book stores. This shows that you value reading. Get gift books for your child and let your child choose a book as a gift for others.
4. Set aside 15-20 minutes to read on a daily basis (but do NOT make this a punishment).
5. Make the daily reading a routine. Schedule it when convenient for your family. For example, at 3:30 pm, everyone drops everything and reads.
6. Make a reading nook. Dedicate a quiet and comfortable location in your home to reading. This should allow for privacy and relief from noise and screens. Sunlight, warmth, plants, and pillows are all good!
7. Develop a reading habit of your own to model the behavior. When adults read in front of children, it sends a powerful message that reading is important.
8. Let your child choose books of interest (don’t force them to read a particular book).
9. Audio books are great! There's lots of free audio books available. Make sure to read along with the physical book/text if possible, although just listening is ok.
10. Encourage informational reading – cookbooks, magazines, newsprint, etc. Paper copies are best.
If you are making a meal, ask your child to read the recipe and help.
If you are assembling that new flat screen, or doing an oil change on the car, ask your child to read the manual and help.
*NOTE* If you or your child reads on screens, consider blue light blocking eyewear: there’s tons of new research on how the light emitted by smart phones and tablets damages one’s health, particularly in regard to the disruption of circadian rhythm and sleep-cycles.
Let me know what you think about these ideas. And please share any successful strategies you use in your own home to boost your child’s reading skills.