Below is a list of tips I have found to be helpful for parents that want to prepare their children to become skillful lifelong readers.
- Go to the library or bookstore with your child.
I remember when my daughter was little and we would go to Borders (no longer in business) to explore books in the children’s section. It was such fun for her to look at all the pictures. She would take down books and sit there just looking through them, even if she couldn’t read them. She had a goal of being able to read them some day. Bookstores are fading away because of electronics, but libraries are still available. Take your child to the reading room and let them pick out books they would like to look at. Explain to them what the stories are about and find a book you can read to them. While e-books are becoming more popular now, there is no substitute for being able to touch a book, open its pages and flip back and forth through it.
If a bookstore is not available and there is no library nearby, you may want to see if your area has a used book store. These are great places to buy books very inexpensively. If you have bought the books, then you can let your children play with them, or write in them if they so desire. The idea is to have them explore books, own books and enjoy books. This will help create in them a desire in them to read. If you spend time reading to them, your children will learn to love the stories. So turn off the TV set and open a book.
- Read at home.
Have your own reading time so that your child can see you do some pleasure reading. We all learn by example. Set a good example for your child by taking the time to sit down and read. Even just 30 minutes a day will communicate to your child that you enjoy reading.
- Play alphabet games.
Buy a set of magnetic letters. Keep them on your refrigerator and make new, simple words every day. Spell “mom” or “dad” or “sister” or spell out family member names. Spell words that are spoken often like “food” or “dog.” A young child won’t be able to read these words but that isn’t the point. The purpose of this exercise is for the child to see written words. Say the word out loud when you spell it. That is all that is needed. Encourage your child to hear words and see written words.
- Use children’s audio books.
These are perfect to use when driving around. Find stories of the correct level for your child and play them over and over again in the car. Talk about the story and what happen in it. Discuss the different characters. Ask which one they like best. All of this helps foster a love of stories.
- Limit TV and movies.
It is so easy to set a small child down in front of the TV so you can get some work done. However, doing this too much and too often will not help your child read later on. They become accustomed to stories being fed to them visually. Plus it is someone else’s vision they see, not images of their own creation. With books a child uses his or her own imagination to create a vision and this is far more creative. Books require the participation of the reader. Just sitting and being entertained is all that is required with movies or videos, no imagination, no creation.