A Parent's Guide to Helping Your Child Learn to Read
This guide was developed to provide parents with information they can use to help their children become successful readers.
Every parent wants his or her child to be a successful reader. Reading, after all, provides the foundation for a great education as well as a lifelong skill that brings not only knowledge, but pleasure.
Building on what we know about learning to read
Research on reading and learning to read shows that there are things that can be done at home from an early age that help children become successful as readers. The following suggestions, which are backed up by research, should be especially helpful to parents and caregivers of young children.
- Teaching young children to recognize the letters of the alphabet is a big boost to reading readiness. Recognizing alphabet letters is one of the single strongest predictors of reading success for young children entering school. Alphabet recognition lays a critical foundation for learning to read and write.
- Reading to children helps them to understand the connection between books and print. Children need to understand that print carries a meaningful message and that stories have a structure. By hearing many stories read to them, and by discussing those stories, children learn that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end; it has characters, setting, and plot. Children who have had exposure to many children’s books can usually indicate when a story does not “make sense” even if they can’t say that it has no plot. Through reading to children, parents can help them understand that there is a connection between the words on the page and what they hear as a story is read to them.
- Talking with your child about a book or story helps him develop vocabulary. As a child learns to speak, he also learns how to listen. He begins to understand how words are strung together to make sense, the patterns of language, and the ways language changes when used for different purposes such as giving directions, explaining, or entertaining.
- Reading about the familiar helps children relate to what is being read to them. Beginning readers will have a hard time understanding what they read if they have no experiences to which they can connect the words. For example, it is difficult for a child who has never seen snow to understand a story about the hazards of traveling in a blizzard.
- Showing the relationship between writing and reading is another way to build reading skill. Helping children learn to write their name, compose notes to friends and family members, and copy favorite words are all ways that parents can help children develop understanding and skills in writing that transfer to reading.
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