We all know how important reading is to our children’s intellectual and emotional development. Not least because having excellent reading skills sets them up for success in several different ways when they get older.
Reading, and having stories read to them, significantly improves your child’s capacity to master the concepts of right and wrong, friendship, logic, and the relationship between cause and effect. It also helps with their learning through a wide range of subjects, not just those that are language based.
Furthermore, reading and storytelling strengthens your child’s ability to concentrate for longer periods of time. Congruently, it also teaches them new words, enhances their grasp of the basics of language, and firms up their language association skills.
While many parents read books to children – especially at bedtime – when they are younger, sometimes children don’t often take it upon themselves to read at a later age.
As they get older, instilling within your child a love of books is a good way to ensure their independence, emotional development, and language skills continue to blossom at a satisfactory rate.
However, if they are struggling to find the motivation or desire to read independently, as a parent it can be a major concern.
But don’t worry, there are several ways you can encourage them, including the 7 strategies we’ve outlined below.
1. Set a regular and daily reading routine
Numerous studies have concluded that allocating time every day to read to, and with, your child can significantly improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills.
It can also assist them to sound out words they are not familiar with, as well as recognise ones they know already.
From a young age try and include a reading routine into their everyday schedule. Doing this with them daily will hopefully impress upon your child the importance of reading. Which they in turn might develop more of a passion for doing.
As your child gets older try and encourage them to read part of the story to you. This will give them more confidence to read independently. But also provide them with the peace of mind that you are still there to help them with any words they find difficult to pronounce or are unfamiliar with.
2. Encourage your child to read on a regularly
The key word here is ‘encourage’ because if you force them to read, they will naturally be less inclined to do so.
Instead, there are two very effective things you can do to try and get your child to read on a more regular basis.
Firstly, make sure you have plenty of books, appropriate to their age level on display, all around your house. This includes in your lounge, kitchen, toilet, verandah, and of course all bedrooms, as well as in your car. This will not only highlight the importance of reading to them, but also show them that reading is very accessible, which in turn is more likely to inspire them to pick up a book.
The other thing to do is lead by example. Children learn through behaviour, not by being told what to do. So how can you expect your child to want to read, if you don’t? If they see you read for pleasure, or just before you go to bed, they are more likely to do the same.
3. Use reading examples outside of books
Unfortunately, some children will always be reluctant readers in the traditional sense of sitting down and reading a book. That is why bringing education into play is very important.
Incorporating reading into your child’s imaginative play is an excellent opportunity that many parents miss. So be sure to get them to read notes you have handwritten, pages from magazines, or excerpts from books whilst you play with them.
Also, even when not playing there are a few little tricks you can employ. For instance, get your child to read emails sent by grandparents or other members of the family.
Likewise, whilst you are out and about ask your child to read road signs when you are driving. Also look over information signs when you go to public places like parks or shopping centres.
If your child wants you to make their favourite meal, ask them to read out the ingredients you will need for it from a cookbook. There are plenty of things you can get them to do.
After they have read to you, be sure to compliment them, as this will not only make them feel good about reading, but also show them how important it is in the context of their everyday lives.
4. Help your child find books they are interested in
One common mistake many parents make is to choose the books they want their child to read. But as adults we won’t read books we are not interested in, so how can we expect children to?
Perhaps the simple reason why a child is uninspired to read, is because they do not have a book available that relates to a topic they like.
The simple solution here then, is to find books from genres they do like. As this could be the spark that finally gets them to read.
Expose your child to as many different genres of books as possible – which might include sport, history, travel, biographies, mysteries, adventure stories, and science fiction. Whatever your child is into, whether it be animals, cars, fashion, outer space, a specific TV show or construction materials, finding them a book about those subjects will naturally make them more excited about reading them.
5. Stay present in your child’s reading development
As teachers often have classes of 25 students or more, it can be difficult for them to notice if your child’s reading skills start to slip.
That is why it is always important to be present in your child’s reading education. Try and monitor the progress your child is making with regards to reading. As this will allow you to identify and address potential issues faster.
Also be sure to ask your child if there is anything you can do to help them. This could take the form of more reading time with them or extra tuition outside of school with a professional. Some children may be too embarrassed to ask for help, or feel like they are letting you down, so it is important for them to know you support them 100%.
Should you feel that your child’s ability to read is not at the level it should be at their age, be sure to schedule a meeting with their teacher. They will work with you to develop a plan for them moving forward.
6. Remember that every child is different
As a parent the worst thing you can do is show your frustration or compare your child’s reading ability to others. Instead, you must remember that every child is different, and learns at a different pace too.
Just because your eldest could read very well by the time they were five years old, does not mean that your other child should be able to. And putting pressure on them like that can be extremely detrimental to their development.
Every child has a brain that is wired differently, with skill sets that improve and enhance at a pace that is determined by the way that they perceive and interact with their world.
The development of your child’s brain is dependent on factors beyond your control. So be patient and remember that every child develops at their own unique pace.
Instead focus your efforts on supporting your child. Reinforce to them how proud you are of the effort they are putting in and the overall progress they are making.
If your child really is struggling, making them feel embarrassed or ashamed is definitely not the best way to kick-start a spike in their development.
7. Never give up on your child
It is important that your child knows you won’t give up on them.
As easy as it might be to just give them a book and instruct them to read, half the battle is creating a positive environment for them to succeed.
Improving your child’s reading ability is not something that will happen overnight, it takes a significant investment in your time and the understanding that it may not be a smooth progression.
Whatever level your child is at when it comes to reading, it is important that they know you will be in it for the long haul with them. So be sure to tell them in the most encouraging way you can.
Reading is a critical component of every child’s development and learning.
Helping, encouraging, and providing them with the tools to improve their language, literacy, and spelling skills will give them an excellent platform for future success.
As outlined in this post, there are plenty of things you can do as a parent, both at home and in collaboration with a teacher to help your child’s reading skills.
So, if your child is struggling with their reading ability, it is important not to panic.
Instead, by adopting these strategies, and providing a loving and supportive environment for your child, you will give them every chance to enhance their reading skill set to a very good level.