A child who excels in reading can excel in almost anything! There are so many benefits to consider when it comes to reading. Children who read often increase their vocabulary, expand their knowledge and see an improvement in their overall academic performance. And there are many fun ways you can help improve your child’s reading skills, from ages toddler to teen.
Improve Your Child’s Reading Skills: Toddlers and Younger Children
One of the best ways to help your preschooler become a great reader is to simply read together. Not only can reading together give your child an introduction to reading, it helps foster a love of reading. Plus, story time is bonding time. There’s something to be said for taking time to snuggle with your child to get lost in a whimsical story.
And of course, there are practical benefits to family story time, too. According to the New York Public Library (NYPL), reading together helps your child develop essential language skills. The library recommends reading together every day, even if it’s only for a few minutes.
You can also take your toddler to a local library or other book-centered venue for story-time events. At many of these events, children and their caregivers enjoy stories, sing songs and meet other families from the neighborhood. Typically, story-time events range in age from birth to 5 years, but this can vary.
Another great way to improve reading habits in young children is to talk about text. No, not necessarily the texts you get on your phone, but the letters, words and numbers you see in everyday life, such as on calendars, signs, packages and other items.
You can even make a fun game out of talking about words. In an online article, Scholastic writes, “When you are out and about, play games involving letter and number recognition. Can your child tell you any of the letters in the supermarket sign? Can she read the serving amount on a packaged snack? She will be delighted to understand more about her world — but don’t push her delight. Developing text awareness should never be a chore.”
Improve Your Child’s Reading Skills: Tweens and Teens
Reading improves brain functioning and connectivity at every age, including the tween and teen years. Kids at this age love reading from a variety of genres, including fantasy, fiction, adventure and the classics.
Mary Miele, an education consultant and founder of Evolved Education, Manhattan, says that whatever they love to read, encourage them to keep reading—because the benefits are plentiful.
“Every genre of reading requires a person to imagine the words on the page. So reading improves imagination and visualization of verbal information,” Miele says. Stories about people and their experiences can develop empathy and perspective-taking. All reading improves the general fund of knowledge and skill acquisition of a person.”
She also added that reading helps improve memory, too. The brain has to remember one sentence as it adds information to the next sentence.
How Reading Helps Kids with Speech or Language Difficulties
Humans start to learn language from the day they are born. Books can be incredibly beneficial for language development and it starts from the moment the first book is introduced to a baby. That’s because spoken language and literacy are connected, explained Gabriell Lucchese, M.S., CCC-SLP, TSSLD, a speech-language pathologist and children’s book author.
“A child that has been diagnosed with a speech and/or language impairment can be at a higher risk for experiencing difficulty with literacy,” Lucchese says. “Speech-language pathologists often use literacy in speech therapy to target goals that will help children improve skills such as phonological awareness, letter recognition, vocabulary, narrative skills, etc.
Before a child learns to read, they can learn pre-literacy skills just by being exposed to reading books at home with their parents or guardian.
Speech-language pathologist, Gina-Marie Principe, M.S., CCC-SLP, P.C., adds that before reading a book, parents and children can look at the pictures together, and point to what they see from beginning to end.
“As a speech-language pathologist, I very rarely ever ‘read’ a book traditionally. I am usually pointing to pictures, commenting using action words like ‘up,’down,’ and ‘in,’ and identifying feelings,” Principe says. “Depending on age, I will ask the child to make predictions before turning to the next page, ‘What do you think will happen next?’”
As a speech therapist, Principe also reads a book over and over again to expose the child to repetition.
“This is very helpful because it allows for the child to participate and feel confident with a familiar story. Then, you can make the child the ‘teacher’ while they take the lead on reading the story,” Principe says.
How to Improve Your Child’s Reading Skills at Any Age
Here are some additional tips to help your child become an excellent reader at any age.
Be a Reader Yourself
Kids love to copy the adults whom they love. So, if they see you reading, they’re more likely to pick up a book, too.
“Parents and guardians reading books themselves is a form of modeling,” says Lucchese. “If you’re traveling or at the beach, bring a book. If you’re drinking your morning coffee or tea, grab a newspaper or a magazine. These are all ways you can model a love for reading at home. As the old saying goes, ‘monkey see, monkey do!’”
Reflect on What You’re Reading
Encourage your child to take the time to think about the story. Keep in mind that it’s not always necessary to zip through the book super fast.
“Stop after you read a page or two and think aloud,” Miele says. “This gives you time to process and connect with what you are reading.”
Explore the Book With Your Child
There’s more to literacy than just reading the words on a page. Point to illustrations and name what you are pointing to aloud. Ask questions and encourage your child to point to certain objects. Check out the cover.
“Review what you see and make inferences and predictions about what might happen in the story,” Luccheses says.
Keep a Dictionary or Google Handy
We’ve all started reading a book and realized halfway through, there are so many words we don’t recognize! Both adults and children can benefit from doing some skim reading before delving into the story to look up unfamiliar vocabulary. Use reading as an opportunity to build your vocabulary by defining words you don’t know as you read, Miele suggests.
Start a Reading Routine
Just as it’s important to brush your teeth, eat right and exercise regularly, so is reading! Kids adapt well to routines, and it doesn’t matter what time of day is spent reading, just as long as it’s regularly scheduled time. Even just 20-30 minutes of reading time can prove beneficial.
“Becoming a better reader involves spending time reading. Carving time in the day to actively read is paramount,” Miele says.
Read Books that Rhyme
This is an especially good tip for younger kids, and those who experience speech-language challenges.
“Exposure to rhyming words aid in the development of phonological awareness and essentially teaches children how language works. Little ones also love repetition! So, read that repetitive nursery rhyme or re-read books that your child loves,” says Lucchese, who recently wrote a children’s rhyming book, Phil Fly’s First Flight.
Make Reading Fun
Never make reading feel like a chore. And that goes for both adults and kids. While books can sometimes mean school work in a child’s brain, this doesn’t have to be the case. Ways to make reading fun for kids can include going to the library or bookstore together, talking about different kinds of books and choosing books about your child’s interests and hobbies.
Don’t be afraid to get into character and read with enthusiasm, Lucchese says.
“Monotonous reading can be boring for any listener. You can change your voice and intonation to play the part as you read to your child. Don’t be afraid to add silly sound effects or use hand gestures and facial expressions too. This makes the story more interactive and interesting. If you’re having fun, your child will have fun too,” says Luccese.
Also, make sure your child is involved in any goals you set for their reading habits.
“Involve your child in the creation of goals for reading. When they are a part of this process, they will engage in the work in a meaningful way,” Miele says.
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