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Wednesday, April 18

Seven Simple Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Read

Reading ability is the most important predictor of academic success. If your child struggles in reading, they will likely struggle in school for a long time. It is not necessary to rush out and hire a reading tutor for your kindergartner, though. Here are seven simple ways you can help your child read better. All it costs is your time and dedication.

1. Read everywhere
You do not have to have a designated cozy reading chair by the fire. Read everywhere. Read a book to your children as they eat their breakfast. Have them read the back of the cereal box. Put some books in the car and have your older child read to the younger one as you drive. Keep a book in your purse for when you are stuck in a waiting room. Encourage your children to keep a book in their backpack and read when they are stuck with nothing to do.

2. Read everything
You do not need a bookshelf full of award-winning children’s literature. Read everything. Find an article in the newspaper and read it with your child. The sports section often has interesting short articles about relatively uncomplicated subjects. Does your child like animals? Look up their favorite on the internet and read about it. Is your child intimidated by large blocks of text? Let your child read the picture captions, and you can summarize the text.

Next, check out your local library. They will have the award-winning children’s literature, as well books about your children’s favorite television character, the latest teen vampire series, and graphic novels. Library cards are generally free, or available for a nominal fee. Let your child pick out some books. Don’t worry about whether they are on your child’s reading level or not. You just want them reading, and you can always help out.

3. Read Yourself
While at the library, pick up a book for yourself. Model the behavior you want your child to emulate. Telling your child how wonderful books are while parked in front of the television every night watching reality shows is hypocritical, and your child will know it. Even if you can put it past them, you should still try to set a good example. Your children are more likely to read if it seems like a common or cool thing to do, and they’re not stuck in their room while you’re downstairs in front of the TV.

4. Read to your Child
Read to your child, even after they can read to themselves. A book too difficult for them to read on their own can be a wonderful shared experience. Reading a chapter a night before bed is a great routine. This way, even if things get busy, your child will likely remember the joy you two shared reading together down the road.

5. Read for meaning
Stop occasionally while reading and ask your child to predict what will happen next. Or ask them what they would do in the character’s situation. Look at the pictures in a picture book. A good picture book will use the illustrations to further the story beyond the text. Many times the pictures may deliberately conflict with the text. This is your child’s introduction to irony, so make the most of it. These interactions will help to develop analytical and comprehension skills, which are just as important as the ability to read.

6. Read Your Child’s Work
Let your child tell you a story as you write it down, and if you can get them to illustrate it, so much the better. Staple it together in book form and read it together. Let your child read it to a sibling or grandparent. Even children too young to really read can hold their book and tell their story. Again, this is a compound exercise. You’re not only reinforcing the ability to read, you’re also now encouraging your child to be creative.

7. Read Every Day
This is the number one way to increase your child’s reading level. If you do nothing else, just reading 20 minutes a day with your child will be enormously beneficial. If your child is too wiggly to sit still for 20 minutes, break it up into smaller sessions. For older kids, trade 20 minutes of television or video games for 20 minutes of reading. As in anything else, practice makes perfect. Don’t forget that this doesn’t mean you should just tell your child to read for your 20 minutes and then go off to your business. Actively engage with your child. You get what you put in, and nowhere is this more true than with your son or daughter’s education.

John Hamot likes to write about his family, traveling and saving money at websites like
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