Help Your Child Learn to Read

Simple things you can do to help!

You can make reading a family habit. Read together, and read alone. When reading is a family habit and reading time is fun, your child will be a reader too.

Keep books at home.

  • Borrow library books. Your libraries have areas with books at different levels, just right for you and your child to read. You and your child can talk to the librarian about what you like, and she can make suggestions for you.
  • Keep your library books in a special place at home, like a basket or a shelf.
  • Buy books at garage sales, flea markets, used or new book stores.
  • Trade books with friends or relatives.
  • Make your own books.
  • Make up stories and draw pictures with your child.

Choose books your child likes.

  • Let your child choose the book. Children read better when they read books they like.
  • Take 3 or 4 books off the shelf and look at the covers together.
  • Talk about what might be in the books.
  • Look for books with stories, and books about real things. Both are good.

Easy books are okay; they make your child feel good about reading. If a book seems to hard, look for books with:

  • Shorter words
  • More white space and fewer words
  • Repitition or rhymes
  • Lots of action
  • Things that interest your child

Re-read books if your child wants to. Repetition helps children learn. Find the right book for your child. It can have some hard words, but not more than five hard words on a page. Your child should be able to understand the story while reading it.

Make a space for reading together

It should be comfortable, well lit, and quiet.

  • Set aside 15 to 30 minutes for your time together, but stop when your child wants to stop.
  • Turn off the TV, radio, and computer. Put away the phone. Focus on your time together.
  • Sit close to your child. Hold the book so your child can see it easily.

Start the fun before you open the book.

Talk about the book before you start reading. Use the title and the cover to guess what the story is about.

  • "It looks like a story about a dog. What do you think the dog is doing?"
  • "There's a snake on the cover. Do you think it will bite?"

Point out things the child already knows about.

  • "Look, this boy has a baby sister just like you!"
  • "Remember another story about this silly alligator?"

Ask a question that doesn't have a yes or no answer.

  • "What do you think will happen?"
  • "What is this person doing?"
  • "What if you had wings like this butterfly?"
  • Ask questions like these while you are reading the book, too.

Listen to your child read aloud.

Invite your child to read the book aloud to you while you sit and listen. Don't criticize. Remember that children learn to read at their own pace. Wait to help until your child asks for it. If your child asks for help, first say: "Do you want to try it?" Then wait and count to five to yourself slowly.

If your child wants help, try these tips:

  • Say, "Skip this word and finish the sentence."
  • Say, "Look at the picture for clues."
  • Say, "Use the first letter sound to guess the word."
  • Talk about the story to give clues about the word.
  • Tell your child the word.
  • Take turns reading.
  • Read the book to your child.

Don't worry about mistakes.

Remember that children make mistakes while they're learning.

  • Do not interrupt to correct your child.
  • You can help without correcting by letting your child try to work things out.
  • Don't get upset. If you stay positive, your child will too.
  • If a child makes more than five mistakes on a page, the book may be too hard. Suggest an easier book next time.

Take time for encouragement.

During or after reading, take time to talk about the book. Tell you child the good things you notice. Find things to praise, like these:

  • "I heard how you sounded out each letter."
  • "You figured it out from the picture."
  • "Good guess, that's really close."
  • "You saw it didn't make sense, and you tried another word that started with the same sound."
  • "You know some hard words!"
  • "You read that long word all by yourself."

Keep reading aloud as your child grows.

If your child isn't ready to read alone, keep reading with him or her.

  • Keep using these tips. Every child learns at a different page.
  • Take turns reading words, or sentences. Follow your child's lead.
  • Try acting out the story with funny voices, sound effects, or even music. Your child can act it out with toys or costumes.
  • The most important thing is to enjoy reading together. If your reading time is fun, your child will think reading is fun.