How do you help your child go from a novice or struggling reader to someone who will consistently turn to reading as a source of pleasure later in life? There are several rules of thumb parents can follow that the experts agree are building blocks to raising enthusiastic readers.
- It all starts with reading aloud. And reading aloud should start from birth. The more words your child hears from the beginning of her life, the bigger her vocabulary will be — which will pave the way when she learns to read herself.
- Have plenty of books in the house. Keep books in the bathroom, on the bedside table, in the backpack. Get your child a library card as soon as she is old enough, then take weekly or biweekly trips to the library. If frequent trips to the library means your child has covered the book selection there, visit a new or used bookstore for more variety and choices in picking books.
- Model reading for your children by being a reader yourself. Make a point of reading a book or the newspaper while your children are in the room. As your child gets older, look for areas of common interest and read together. If your preteen son is an athlete, read the sports section together or get him a subscription to a sports magazine.
- Let your kids be in charge of what they read. Allow your kids to select their own books, even if they're too easy. And it's OK if she wants to read junk once in a while, as long as she's reading a variety of things. Parents who try to exert too much control over the content of their kids' reading risk fueling the perception that reading is a chore.
Another tactic that can be effective for children who are struggling with reading (or just beginning to get the hang of it): giving small rewards. For frustrated or new readers, the intrinsic pleasure in reading just isn't there yet, so it's OK to offer extrinsic rewards, such as movie tickets, screen privileges, or even a dollar or two, in exchange for concentrated reading time.