There isn’t a right or wrong way to read to your child, but these reading tips for parents will help you get the most out of your family reading time. When we understand the importance of reading to our children we see every story shared as an opportunity for learning.
5 Reading Tips for Parents
It’s important to use strategies that are age appropriate and fit the developmental needs of your child. First, let’s look at some foundational reading goals for preschoolers (California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1)
- Handle a book appropriately.
- Understand that print is something that can be read.
- Answer questions about the main character or events in a familiar story.
- Enjoy listening to reading.
- Engage in literacy routines.
Each of the following reading tips for parents will strengthen these foundational reading goals.
1. Talk with your child about the parts of the book.
Talk to your child about the different parts of the book as you prepare to read a story. Your preschool child needs to know how to hold a book upright in a reading position, where to find the title, and how to turn the pages in one direction. Kindergartners need to be able to identify the front cover, back cover, title, and title page of a book.
Test your child’s understanding by holding the book upside down or backwards and asking, “Is this the right way?” Turn the book right side up and say, “No, this is the right way. The front cover opens this way.” This reinforces that we read a book from beginning to end starting on the left and moving to the right.
Point to the title on the front cover as you read it. Play a quick game to assess him before beginning a story. Encourage him to show you the parts of the book. “Where can I find the title of this story?” “Look at the picture on the front cover. What do you think will happen in this story?” “Does the back cover look different than the front?” “Let’s look at the title page and read the title again.”
2. Track the words with your finger.
Tracking just means following along. Young readers need to practice tracking with their finger to build the muscle memory to follow longer sentences on a page. When you are reading to your child, move your finger under the words as you say them. This may feel awkward at first, but it reinforces that words, sentences, and books are read from left to right.
Tips for adding a little tracking challenge:
- Hold your child’s finger and move it under the words.
- Have your child mover your finger under the words.
- Give your child an object to move under the words (toy car, feather, pencil, bookmark etc)
- Stop at repetitive words and ask, “What word is this?”
3. Break from reading to look at pictures and ask questions.
Some parents begin to feel frustrated as their child interrupts the flow of a story with comments about the pictures. The pictures are there to aid comprehension, so questioning and commenting is good. Give your child some time to enjoy the picture before reading the words on the page.
Ask your child to make a prediction based off of what they see in the picture, “What is [the character] doing?” or “What do you think the words are going to tell us on this page?” Then you can bring their attention back to the words by saying, “Let’s see if you’re right!”
It’s important to ask questions and listen for your child’s answers. Discussion creates a stronger connection to the story and develops reading comprehension.
Here are some examples of questioning styles for children at varying developmental needs:
- Where is the cat?
- What did the cat do?
- Why do you think he’s chasing the mouse?
- What would you do if you were the mouse?
- What do you think is going to happen next?
4. Read with a different voice for each character.
Some parents are naturally more animated than others when reading to their children, but this is a strategy that you’ll get used to with practice. The benefit of using character voices is that is helps your child experience the depth of each character’s personality and position in the story.
Using different character voices makes the story more enjoyable for you and your child, not to mention entertaining to any adults that may be eavesdropping on you!
5. Encourage your child to read repetitive parts of the text with you.
Stories that have a chorus or repetitive phrase are very valuable for children who aren’t reading yet. They begin to recognize common sight words (if they are tracking). Repeated text has a rhythm and sometimes a rhyme.
Encouraging your child to chant predictable or repeated parts of the story pulls them into the reading activity. It builds their awareness of rhyming words, a skill that facilitates strong spelling skills later.
Additional benefits of chanting or repetitive reading include:
- Helps them recognize syllables in words
- Reinforces the use of patterns in learning
- Chanting combines music (rhythm) and reading
- Models reading fluency and expression
Creating a habit of family reading will prepare your young child for school and academic learning. Use these reading tips for parents to build a strong foundation for a lifetime of reading.
If your bookshelf looks a little skimpy and new books don’t fit into your budget, you can still satisfy your child’s reading appetite by finding affordable or free books for kids.
What tips would you add to this list?
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