All parents would like their children to become good readers. Yet parents are sometimes not too sure what they can do to help.
Some parents, in their desire to develop their child's literacy skills, may push too hard too early. Pushing a child who isn't yet ready is usually counterproductive. The parent becomes more and more frustrated, while the child begins to associate learning to read with anxiety and failure.
On the other hand, other parents are so confused and intimidated by conflicting theories regarding the so-called "one right way" to teach reading that they decide to leave it entirely to the teacher and the school. In so doing, they unfortunately deprive their child of the unique learning environment that only the home can provide.
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Is my child ready for reading? In determining reading readiness, it is essential to take one's cue from the individual child. The child's age alone is not an adequate indicator. Some children who are not yet ready to begin reading will be content to listen to a story being read or just look at the pictures.
The child who is ready will want you to identify words in her favorite books. When your child starts pushing you, rather than the other way around, it's a good indicator that she is probably ready for reading.
How to foster a love of reading in the home
One of the best ways for parents to foster a love of reading in all children is by reading stories aloud. Even after children have learned to read they still enjoy having a story read to them. This should always be a fun activity - such as at bedtime - for both parent and child. Even in the daytime, a reading period should be limited to no more than 30 minutes at a time. As soon as the child shows signs of restlessness, it is best to stop and resume the reading at a later time.
Here are some suggestions that will help to make reading to your child at home more beneficial and enjoyable:
• Let your child have input - such as a particular interest or favorite author - in choosing the books to be read.
• Look over the material beforehand before reading it to your child.
• Choose a comfortable and relaxed setting.
• Let your child know the importance of this reading time together by eliminating distractions or interruptions, such as telephone, radio, or television.
• Read the book in a lively and animated manner, using a different tone of voice for the different characters in the story.
• Look frequently into your child's eyes to maintain active interaction.
• Pause periodically to discuss what is happening in the story or to raise some questions. ("Is the little dog afraid? What do you think the girl should do next?")
• Discontinue reading - until some later time - if your child appears bored or restless.
Other ways to stimulate your child's interest in reading
Some parents put identifying labels on objects in the child's room: bed, door, drawer, chair. Parents can also point out words on vegetable cans, cereal boxes, t-shirts, signs and billboards. The more a child becomes aware of the written words in everyday living, the more interested she will become in learning to read.
Parents can also make use of the children's section at the local public library. This is a very good way to learn about an individual child's special interests. Once a child shows an interest in a special topic, or in books by a particular author, the librarian can usually find more books related to those interests.
Many public libraries organize children's story hours and other programs to stimulate children's interest in reading.
Connecting reading with writing: It is also a good practice to connect reading with writing. Have your child develop a story that you can write down. When you read it back to her, point to each word as you say it. After reading her own story to her a number of times, invite her to read it with you, helping her with the words she doesn't recognize.
It is best, at this stage, to ignore any errors she makes as this will only inhibit her desire to learn.