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16 Ideas to Help Your Child Learn to Read

Learning to read can be trickyUse these fun and easy tips to help support your child’s early literacy skills. These ideas provide a great overview, and build off of the latest instalment in the Kitchen Table Classroom series focused on building a strong foundation to support your child’s reading from kindergarten to second grade

1. Let your child see you reading

Your reading habits play a large role in determining how often your children read: 57% of children who are frequent readers have parents who read books five to seven times a week. If you typically read on a screen or listen to audiobooks, invite your children to look at  

2. Play with language

Sing songs that focus on rhymes, alliteration, and tongue-twisters. Children can fill in the rhymes in songs like "Down by the Bay," or "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe." Play word games, such as listing as many animals as you can that start with "R" (rabbit, rooster, rat), or a guess the word game.

3. Reread familiar books

Rereading is critical for enhancing fluency. When children already know how the story goes, they can focus more on understanding the meaning and words in the book. Seeing the same words over again helps children master new words and increase their confidence  

4. Track each word with your finger as you read

Pointing out each word helps your child associate the sounds of words with the letters on the pageThis makes sure that even if a child is just repeating a memorized section of the book, they are still associating that text with the sound of the words being said and experiencing the text with their bodies. Using a special pointer, like an animal-shaped eraser on the end of a pencil instead of just a finger, can be very motivating. 

5. Become a word detective

If you come across a new word in something you’re reading, watching, or listening to, talk about what it means, think of words that mean something similar, and try to connect the word to something your child has already experienced or knows. Look at how the word is spelled or any interesting letter patterns in the word. Larger words may have familiar, shorter words within them, like “newspaper” and “daydream.” If you’re listening to an audiobook, the radio, or a song, talk about the sounds you hear. 

6. Read to your child 

Read in your home language. Parents can teach their child a love of books in any language, even if they don’t speak English. 

7. Read with your child

Work together as a team when reading. Encourage your child to guess when they are stuck. You can support them by reminding them what sound the letters make and giving other context clues. Sharing the reading can make things more fun: you read one sentence, they read one sentence. Or you can read the story first, then have your child read the story again.  

8. Try dialogic reading  

In dialogic reading, you start a discussion to help the child become the storyteller; you become the listener, the questioner, and the audience. Dialogic reading makes shared reading more engaging for the child and gives them ownership over their reading experience. Try the three R’s: 

  • Relating: Ask how the story relates to something your child knows or has experienced 
    “This reminds me of when.... What do you think?”  
  • Reflection: Ask why the characters are acting a certain way / doing certain things 
    “I wonder why they....” or “Why do you think they.... ?” 
  • Retelling: Have your child summarize parts of the story either at the end of an interesting part, at the end of a page, or at the end of the book.  
    “Whoa! What just happened there?... And then what happened?” 

9. Connect print to sound in straightforward ways 

Make letter-sound connections with the things you see in your everyday life. If you’re passing a McDonald’s you could say, "Look, it’s McDonald's. It starts with the /m/ sound." Or at home, ask your child, "In the spice drawer, can you find me the cumin? It starts with the /c/ sound, a letter C." 

10. Use lots of praise  

Even when mistakes are made, praising the skills your child used to get that answer and offering gentle guidance helps keep them encouraged. If they read the word "horse" as "house," praise them for knowing the /h/ sound at the beginning and /s/ at the end. Ask them to look at all the sounds in the word. Point out the /r/ sound in the word and ask them if they hear that in the word "house." You can also encourage them to use context cues by asking them if the word “house” fits in the context of the sentence: “Do you think the knight rode a house to the castle?” 

11. Skim and scan  

Taking a quick look at the book with your child before reading it together lets you point out words that your child already knows. Every sentence will have words that your child can read easily or is close to recognizing automatically. Reinforce those words! 
You can also point out words that might be challenging ahead of time. You can say, "Oh, this is a long word. Let’s break it into down. Do you see any parts of the word that you know?” You can cover part of a word with your finger to help them see and read only one part at a time. Using the cover art and pictures in a book to guess what the story is about can help your child with context clues, too (like the knight and horse/house).  

12. Tell stories and have your child tell stories  

Telling stories helps children understand typical story structures, which supports them making predictions when reading and builds early comprehension skills. Share a story from your family history or from when you were your child’s age. Invite them to share something from their life by asking, “What was the funniest thing that happened at school today?” You can even try inventing a shared story where you start and they build, taking turns to add details and plot twists: “Once upon a time, there was a very lonely robot … your turn!” 

13. Have your child write  

When beginning readers write words, they practice making letter-sound connections. Ask your child to send a text or email to a relative or write a letter to someone far away. Your child could help you make the grocery list. The words do not need to be spelled correctly but challenge them to see how much of the word they can spell based on their understanding of the letter sounds.  

14. Allow for invented spelling 

Allow beginning readers to try to spell a new word, rather than spelling it out for them. Invented spelling is an important developmental stage in early literacy and research has shown it leads to stronger speaking, reading, and writing skills in later grades. Children can typically spell the first sound, and sometimes the end sounds, but the middle letters may be harder to make sense of (i.e., for beans, they might write BS or BEN). After they try to spell a word, you can show your child the correct spelling and talk about how the spellings are different. While your child is writing, you can support them by emphasizing the sounds in the word: "Beans, let's listen, BBBB-EEEEE-NNNN, what is the first sound you hear? BBBBBBB, what letter makes the /b/ sound?”  

15. Make reading an act of caring 

Make this an enjoyable time surrounded by warm, emotional connection, not a must-do task that is a punishment or chore. Choose a special reading spot. Have your child snuggle in or sit on your lap. Physical connection when reading associates positive emotions with books and stories. Read to pets or favourite stuffed animals. Make reading a ritual such as reading every night before bed or when you first get home after school. Show your own delight and enjoyment in reading. Make sure you smile, laugh, and express emotion in response to the text. Thank your child for reading with you.  

16. Visit the Library

Let your child pick out the books you will read together based on their own interests. Explore the Digital Library for new eBooks and audiobooks — some are even animated! All reading is good reading so take advantage of the fact that you can borrow up to 99 books at once. Try something new — cookbooks, non-fiction, comics, picture books, magazines and more.  
Why not try a Family Reading Kit? Build lifelong learners with these fun and interactive kits that help families read popular titles together at home.

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