Being able to read with fluency and comprehension is one of the most important educational skills an individual can develop. Therefore, supporting our children in becoming readers is one of the most important things we can do as parents and teachers. But what does “supporting our children in becoming readers” look like? I think the best thing parents can do is to model reading and talk about the importance of reading always– starting when children are very young and continuing through adolescence. When children are young, parents can set routines around reading as well as add spontaneous reading every day. Routines may include reading stories before bedtime, reading the newspaper at breakfast (have emerging readers help find letters or words, read aloud passages to older readers), reading street signs on the way to school, or establishing special reading times during the day. Spontaneous reading can include finding reading opportunities while waiting for an appointment or choosing reading as an activity when “boredom” sets in. When parents choose some type of reading as their first suggestion or their own first choice when deciding upon what to do, it reinforces that reading is an enjoyable choice.
What is most important is that reading is meaningful and fun. That is why I don’t ever promote worksheets or drills to foster reading. Teachers have strategies in school to help students master specific reading skills. At home, having children engage frequently in actual, real-life reading is most effective in fostering a love and facility with reading. Reading material of interest is also important- regardless of the format. Having children read (age-appropriate) comics, magazines, even online content is fine- they are reading!! Encouraging children to identify their reading interests will help both you and them find good reading materials. When my son was in early elementary, he became very interested (obsessed?) with dolphins. This was a great opportunity for me to facilitate his reading skills, as I scoured the library, internet, and bookstores for dolphin materials.
Parents should not worry if their children are not fluent readers by kindergarten, or even first grade! Children develop their reading abilities at different paces. What we look for is an interest in reading and an understanding that letters and words are important in everyday life.
So as parents, we need to ask ourselves: How often does my child see me reading? When does my child hear me comment on what I am reading, thus indicating that what I am reading is important? When and how do I encourage my child to read? Are there times when I can suggest reading as an alternative to other activities? What does my child love to read? How can I help my child find meaningful and relevant materials to read?
This graphic shows how a little bit of reading every day adds up over time. The message here is help your child read, read, read!!!