We often say that we are a “school of readers.” Reading is very important at Mason Prep, and we want our students to develop a love of reading that will stay with them throughout their lives.
Parents often ask what they can do to help their children learn to read and to enjoy reading. Here are some tips for both at two important developmental stages.
KINDERGARTEN & PRE-KINDERGARTEN
Our kindergarten students come to us at various stages of reading readiness – and that is the way it should be! Children begin to read at different times, so parents can be assured their child will read when he or she is developmentally ready. At this young age, the goal is not for your child to read, the goal is for your child to be ready to read.
That being said, there are many things a parent can do to help with their child’s reading readiness. These are simple practices that can easily be done as part of your daily routine.
Read to Your Child: The single most important thing you can do is read to your child, and it’s never too early to start. It is important for your child to hear your voice and its intonation.
Make Reading an Interactive Activity: It is important to interact with your child when you read with them. Talk about the story as you go. Ask your child, “How does this character feel right now?” “What do you think will happen next?”
Use the pictures. “Read” a book with your child just by looking at the pictures. Have your child tell you what he or she thinks is happening in the story by looking at the pictures – then read it.
Make up stories together orally. Begin by stating the name of a character and let your child add to the narrative by describing the character. Continue talking back and forth to add more details. Where does the character live? What does the character like to do?
Very young children can benefit from simply holding a book (even if it is upside down!) and turning the pages. Knowing how to handle a book is an important step on the way to reading.
Visit the Library: The library is so much more than a place to check out books! For pre-readers, take advantage of the free children’s programs (story time, puppet shows, art classes, etc.) the library offers. By participating in interesting activities, children will begin to associate the library with a fun place where you can learn. While you are there, choose a book for yourself. Modeling reading impacts your child’s desire to read.
Use Everyday Activities to Boost Reading Readiness: Activities that are not necessarily reading can be a tremendous boost to reading readiness.
After outings with your child, ask them questions about what they did, how it made them feel, what they liked the most, etc. Thinking in this way helps their comprehension skills.
Take advantage of environmental print. Environmental print is all the printed words that are around us every day – the cereal box, the fast food sign, etc. Children recognize the words they see each day. Point out the print that is familiar to them. Talk about what sounds are in the word, then what letters are in the word. When your child begins to recognize letters, you can “hunt” for them as you drive or walk around town – make it a game.
Keep It Fun: Make sure reading time is fun. Make it a special time for you and your child (there’s a reason why so many families end the day with a book before bed!).
Know that reading the same book over and over is OK (we understand this can become tedious for parents!). Often, children will pretend to read a book they know very well, turning the pages and telling the story. This gives them confidence in their developing skills.
Remember the Goal: Keep in mind that, at this young age, the goal is not to read. The goal is to get ready to read. As your child builds his or her reading readiness skills, sounds will become letters, letters will become words, words will become sentences. Reading will happen on your child’s timetable. It’s your job to get your child ready to read by showing them that reading is fun and enjoyable.
For older children who are reading, there are several things you can do at home to support your child, boost his or her confidence, and encourage a love of reading.
Take a trip to the library to find a book series. Don’t worry about the books being at the “appropriate” reading level. These books should be about something your child is interested in and excited about. Does he enjoy fiction, science, animals? Choose books that grab his attention.
Read these books together. You can read some, then she can take a turn. If she struggles with a word, help her with it and move on. This exercise is about getting your child to enjoy reading. Interesting stories and spending special time with you will do the trick. Ask her questions about the content every page or two to keep it interesting.
Read in all aspects of life. When you go out to eat, let him read the menu. Point out signs as you drive around town and have him read them. Make a game of it – give points for the number of signs he reads each time you go out and see if you can beat your score with each outing. As the point count goes up, so will his confidence.
Read for enjoyment in front of your child.
Get him or her a subscription to a great child-friendly magazine.
Write and illustrate a book together as a family.
Ask your child to read to siblings and grandparents, as well as to pets and stuffed animals (these last two won’t mind if he needs to take a little time to figure out a word!).
Get your child his or her own library card.
Keep track of your child’s progress with reading. Try not to compare your child to his or her peers.
These may seem like simple exercises, but they are effective. Again, reading with your child is one of the best things you can do. It not only supports reading skills but also shows your child that reading is fun and puts him or her on the path to becoming a lifelong reader.