Helping your child read
1. Reading has to be fun
Try to find something that has your child's interest. For
instance, if your child is only interested in baseball, give him a
baseball magazine to read.
2. Words are everywhere
Make reading a daily experience. When you go shopping, you can
point out signs like "only ten customers in this lane", "today's
special offer on spaghetti", "please wait here", "Sorry, we are
closed". Children will quickly recognize these signs and will be proud
to be able to read all by themselves. Read the ads on the cereal boxes,
directions or recipes on food.
3. Make reading a book a special experience
Chose a special moment during the day to read a book with your
child. Sit close, so that the child can feel your warmth. By reading
in bed for instance you can create a loving atmosphere. The child will
associate reading with something pleasant .Shut off all background
noises (TV, radio, air conditioner, etc.) during that time.
4. Read with your child
If you sit next to your child, have your finger under the word
that you are reading so that the child can follow. Point out words,
which are not in the child's vocabulary and ask 'what is that?'.
Encourage the child to read himself loud. If the child struggles with
one word allow a couple of seconds for him to try and to sound out the
word himself, then read the word together. If he mispronounces a
word, give him time to correct himself, then you read it with the
proper pronunciation. Let him feel that it is o.k. not to know these
things. Difficult words can be broken into pieces like Hi- po- po- ta -
mus. Some words make a new sense when put together like pine- apple,
other words can be sounded out by breaking them into syllables or
recognizable words and prefixes like Des- oxy- ribo- nucleic- acid.
Laugh with your child about words that sound funny like Hima- laya,
Sisy- phus, Taran- tulla, make it fun to learn a new word, then
explain the meaning of it.
5. Comprehension and reading
If you read with your child, stop from time to time during the
story and ask who, where, what or when questions. However, do not
overdo it, remember reading has to be fun.
6. Institutionalize reading
Go to the Library once a week and let the child pick a book of
his choice. Spend some time in the library on those cuddly pillows and
let him read. Ask the librarian for advice. Browse the library
computer about certain subjects. If you for instance type in baseball
and juvenile, only children's books but no adult books that deal with
baseball will come up on the search. Let your child get his own library
card. The "Step into reading" series and the easy readers (available
in the library) are great for beginning readers.
7. Struggles with reading?
If your child reads below grade level try to find literature
that is appropriate for his reading skills but talks about subjects
that are age appropriate. Nothing is more boring for a second grader
than to read "The very hungry Caterpillar" or "Spot goes to school". If
your child becomes interested in reading, it will fill up the delay
quickly. Underline new words, write them on index cards and keep them in
a box. Go through the cards from time to time. The child will see the
If your child cannot be interested for books or magazines at
all, try different media. Computer games can stimulate reading. Try
games were the game part is the main focus, not the reading part. For
instance: "The Oregon Trail" or "Where in the world is Carmen
Santiago?" . There are interesting web sites for children on the
Internet. A pen pal might be a good idea. Games with adventure cards or
question cards might get his interest. Talk with your teacher about
show and tell during snack time in which the child gets the opportunity
to talk about a book. Switch on the close captions on your TV. Every
television set built after 1991 has a close caption decoder built in. To
activate/ inactivate it, you only need to push one button.
8. Beginning reading
Start with 3 word sentences. Use magazine clippings, drawings
or photos to write a sentence (e.g. the baby sleeps, the cat runs, the
girl laughs). Increase the sentence length slowly by adding adjectives
(the little baby boy sleeps, the gray and white cat runs etc.) From
there on the sentence can get more and more complex (the little baby boy
who just had lunch sleeps now). Make little index cards or paper
strips with words. Take turns adding new words to the sentence. Make it
a fun game. When it is your turn you can add directional words (when,
because, then, into, after, etc.). The sentence might grow into: "The
little baby boy with the white bib and the blue jumpsuit who just had
mashed potatoes for lunch sleeps now after having had a big fight with
his older brother who did not want to share his toys with the baby.
9. Use whole language
Nobody talks like a vocabulary list. Even though flash cards
can increase the sight vocabulary, they do not teach how to read. Read
whole sentences rather than single words.
10. Give an example
Show your children that your are reading yourself. Give them a
book of their choice, sit together and have quiet reading time. This
might give you some time to read the newspaper.