Developing Solid Reading Skills
Think of why you read: to perform a task, to be informed and for literary experience. If you had not developed solid reading skills as a child, you may have difficulty completing job-related tasks or reading for enjoyment. Education experts agree that children develop reading behaviors early in life and that parental involvement at home helps children perform better in school and become enthusiastic, lifelong readers.
"Beginning early in our childhood we develop the behaviors necessary to put reading to use for different purposes and to perform various functions," says Richard Bavaria, Ph.D., vice president of education for Sylvan Learning Center. "Throughout our lives we read directions or instructions to perform a task; we read newspapers, magazines and other materials to be informed; and we read stories, poetry, plays and other enjoyable materials for the literary experience."
By encouraging children to read at home, parents can help them establish a lifelong love of books, transforming reading from a basic skill to a pleasurable activity. Sylvan Learning Center recommends that parents spend at least one hour per week – 10 to 15 minutes a day – reading with their child.
"Children who read regularly at home do better in school," says Bavaria. "Parents play an instrumental role in the development of their children's reading behaviors and in fostering an enthusiasm for reading. Reading is an adventure that begins early in a child's life and should extend beyond the classroom. Children exhibit certain reading behaviors at a young age, and by understanding and nurturing these behaviors, parents can make reading fun and motivate their child to develop a lifelong friendship with books."
To help parents nurture their child's reading behaviors, the experts at Sylvan Learning Center offer these grade-specific tips and ideas for reading at home:
Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten:
- Make cookies together. Read the recipe aloud to your child.
- Read directions to your child when completing a project.
- Subscribe to a magazine for your child (Ladybug, Your Big Backyard, Zoobooks, etc.) to learn about topics of interest to him. He will be excited about having his own reading materials.
- Pick a storybook character (Arthur, Strega Nona, etc.) and pretend that character is coming for dinner. Help your child plan activities that character would like.
- Help your child relate read-aloud stories to events in her life.
- Read stories aloud and act them out.
Grades One to Three:
- Subscribe to a magazine for your child (Spider, Ranger Rick, etc.) to learn about topics of interest to him. Make its arrival an event.
- After reading a non-fiction story, ask your child why he thinks the author wrote the story.
- Help your child create charts and posters about topics of interest to her.
- Read picture books by the same author (Tomie DePaola, Bill Martin, Jr., etc.) and compare and contrast them: How are they the same? How are they different?
- After reading a book with your child, discuss the book with her. Ask her to identify the characters, setting and problems in the book.
- Help your child recognize how stories are similar to or different from his own life.
- Encourage your child to read various types of texts: non-fiction, plays, stories, comics and/or magazines. Ask your child to explain which type she likes best.
- Introduce your child to the library and plan special library visits together.
Grades Four to Eight:
- Help your child with the latest experiment in his science book. Talk through each step and discuss what you're going to do next.
- Pick a different country each week, and challenge her to learn a bit more about that country by visiting the library or researching it online.
- Research and select books about your child's interests, such as a sport or hobby.
- Make a trip to the library a weekly "date" with your child.
- Read the newspaper with your child. Elicit his opinion about current events.
- Encourage your child to read series books (Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket books, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie).
- Create a family book club where you and your child read the same book and discuss it.
- Help your child find a favorite author. Have him create alternate stories for the author's repetitive characters.
- Read her favorite books.
Grades Nine to 12:
- Read various types of directions (recipes, technical instructions, experiments) and determine the usefulness of the instructions to the reader's life.
- Purchase a set of reference books, software or CD-ROMs for everyday home use.
- Read newspaper editorials with your child and discuss them.
- Quiz your child when he has a test. This not only reinforces his note-taking skills and study habits, but also helps reading comprehension.
- Encourage your child to talk about the latest book she is reading. Ask her to share her favorite scenes with the rest of the family.
- Read classic works (novels, plays, myths, etc.) and compare them to today's world.
- Read books by the same author, comparing and contrasting style across the various books.
The Internet can also provide many opportunities for children of all ages who are looking for new things to read. Book Adventure is a free, Sylvan-sponsored, interactive reading motivation program online at www.bookadventure.org. Students choose their own books, take short comprehension quizzes and redeem their accumulated points for small prizes. Book Adventure also offers teachers and parents resources and tips to help children develop a lifelong love of reading.