Listening to your child read a book for the first time is a golden moment in parenting. After years of reading to your child, it is truly amazing when that same child turns around and returns the gift.
For most children, the switch from pre-reading to actual reading happens somewhere between kindergarten and second grade. You can support the journey by reading books aloud, encouraging language and vocabulary development, and showing kids that reading is important by cracking a book on a regular basis yourself.
If you have a child showing signs that he or she is ready to read, by all means, jump in and help them! Here are some strategies to keep in mind:
- Form a partnership with your child’s teacher: Understand the teacher’s approach to reading instruction and confirm how you can help at home. Take time to question and learn from the teacher so that you can work together for your child’s reading benefit.
- Practice and more practice: Reading is hard work for most young children. Be sure your family schedule allows time each day for your child to read to you without rushing. Practice reading in five-minute intervals, if necessary, giving your child fun breaks in between.
- Break big words into little words: Help your child recognize the phonetic chunks within big words, such as “en” or “at,” while she is reading to you. This will help her decode the larger word and read more fluently.
- Use the pictures: Early readers often figure out context and meaning from the pictures on the page. If your child is stumped by a word, remind him to look at the picture for clues.
- Ritualize your reading time: Create a comfortable book nook in your house, read against special “story” pillows, sip a hot drink while you read, or come up with other unique ways to make reading special for your child.
- Get creative: Many children will respond better to the “work” of reading if more fun is involved. Act out the story, let your child “sing” the words on the page, or invite your child to draw their own pictures to go along with the plot.
- Be a reader yourself: Your children will truly internalize the importance of reading when they see you absorbed in a book, magazine, or other piece of literature. Show them that reading is part of your everyday world and soon they will follow suit.
Most importantly, try to remember that just like walking, talking, and potty training, most children will learn to read when they’re developmentally ready. Provided you have laid a firm foundation, your child will get there - it just takes a little time.