How to Help Your Child Become a GREAT Reader

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

It is that time of year when we mommies are getting another school year underway. If you are like me, your little one is heading off to preschool for the first time; others of you may have the whole back-to-school thing mastered.

As parents we all want the best for our children throughout their school years – and beyond. Part of their success in life begins with a good education, the foundation of which is based on the ability to read well. I spent close to 10 years teaching reading in various elementary schools both as a classroom teacher and as a reading resource instructor, so I have a few tips I can share with you.

Whether you are completely “off the merry-go-round” as a stay-at-home mom, or still “on the merry-go-round” to some degree, these are tips that all parents can work into the daily routine.

Reading is a process and each child develops the skill at a different pace. Try to avoid comparing your child’s reading ability with other children – reading is so much more than being able to read words on a page. A “great reader” can also read with appropriate expression, demonstrate understanding by answering comprehension and higher-level thinking questions, and connect his/her reading to other text and to real-life experiences. So, let the reading process evolve naturally for your child, and enjoy watching (and hearing!) his/her success along the way.

Ideas to consider:

  • Introduce reading early – From birth is best; I know some mothers who have even read to their children while they were in the womb!
  • Begin and end each day with reading – Then, no matter what happens in between, you will have gotten in that precious time! Some mornings, my son will ask me to read him a book as soon as he gets out of bed. Reading and cuddling in his ‘reading nook’ is always a wonderful way to start our day.
  • “Squeeze” reading into unique times of the day – I keep a book basket stashed with some of my son’s favorite books next to the potty. During bath time, he likes me to read while he splashes in the bubbles.
  • Model reading – Let your child see you reading! I use breakfast and dinner as family chat times yet when my son and I are eating lunch, I put on a story cd for him while I scan an article in The Economist.
  • Put the focus on reading – Reading is much more beneficial to your child’s developing brain versus screen time.
  • “Act out” stories – This can simply be talking in a character’s “voice” or “mimicking” a character’s actions.
  • Read stories of interest – Grab your child’s attention and foster a love for reading by reading books about things your child enjoys.
  • Incorporate activities – Retelling a story, doing a related art project or craft, going on a scavenger hunt to find something from a book, taking a field trip to the book’s setting – anything counts! In Harold’s Circus, a lemonade stand is mentioned and since my son had never tasted lemonade, I let him take his first swig. My husband helped him build a crown and scepter out of Tinker Toys – just like the character Max has in Where the Wild Things Are.
  • Do “closed” reading – While reading familiar books pause once in awhile to let your child fill in the word that comes next.
  • Give hints – Help your child figure out unknown words through picture and context clues.
  • Ask questions to gauge understanding – Begin with literal questions (“What is the boy holding in his hand?”), then slowly progress to comprehension questions (“Why did the family move?”) and higher level thinking questions (“What do you think the girl will do next?”). Doing this with my son from a very early age has him already making predictions and connecting what he has read to other books, his life, and the world around him.
  • Reading from memory is reading – My mother always tells me, “You were reading from the time you were 2!” Yet I was “reading” from memory – I knew the text “by heart” from having the same stories read to me over and over. However, this is indeed the very foundation of reading. From about 20 months old, my son was reading text word for word and turning the pages to match. He has a strong aptitude for memorization and recitation, and I too consider him a “reader;” I just recognize that he is only at the beginning of that journey.
  • Share reading – Alternate between you and your child reading one page or paragraph.

The best way you can help your child become a great reader is to foster a love of reading. Teach your child that books are treasures. Help them learn to respect and care for their books. Then, when you are finished with them, pass them on! As Jen’s boys got older, she had a hard time parting with some of their most treasured childhood books so she gave them to my son. Now they have become an important part my family’s life. Reading is a process – one that develops slowly over time. Yet, if introduced early and nurtured carefully along the way, your child will not only become a “great” reader – he/she will enjoy it as a life-long gift.

For more tips, check this link to the RIF (Reading is Fundamental) website.  And please feel free to share your reading tips below as well!

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2 thoughts on “How to Help Your Child Become a GREAT Reader

  1. Excellent advice and nicely presented; I especially liked tying reading in with activities and projects, and using those small available moments to read…thank you!

  2. Great blog Jennifer! I really enjoyed reading it! I will show this to my sister – we will have Ella reading in no time flat 🙂 ~Brianne

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