When kids are just starting school, they don’t know how important reading is. They don’t know how hard reading is for some people, or how complex the English language can be.
They just love stories.
Parents can help their children learn to read by seizing on that joy and making sure stories, books, words, and language are a constant, positive force in their child’s everyday life. “We see the parents’ role as imparting a love of reading,” says Tricia McDaniel, a 1st grade teacher in Roswell, Ga. “Some kids may also need reinforcement with the mechanics of reading, and parents can help there as well, but all kids benefit from living in a home where reading is modeled, valued, and celebrated.”
Just reading with your child every day will go a long way in making him a lifelong reader. But there are also other activities and strategies you can use to make reading fun and engaging and never boring.
Here are 26 tips from teachers to help your kindergarten, 1st grade, or 2nd grade child read better and learn to love reading. The tips come from a 2010 survey conducted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators.
Use flash cards to reinforce high-frequency words, such as like, see, and here.
Play rhyming games.
When reading a picture book, encourage your child to look at the pictures and talk about what he thinks is happening in the story.
Point to words everywhere you see them, and talk about what the word means.
Select books from a variety of genres, including fiction and nonfiction.
Read aloud with enthusiasm and animation, changing your voice for different characters.
Invite your child to join in when there is a repeated phrase in the story.
After reading a story, have your child tell it back to you.
Make life connections with books whenever possible.
Explore different types of reading with your child, such as echo reading, where the parent reads a short passage and the child repeats it while following along in the book; choral reading, where parent and child read aloud at the same time; and partner reading, where parent and child take turns reading out loud to each other.
Label things around the house with word cards and practice reading them daily.
Put high-frequency words such as write, number, and people on flashcards. Combine word cards to make sentences you can read.
Make a book chain. When your child reads a book, have her write a sentence about the book on a strip of colored paper. Add the link to a paper chain about other books.
Have your child cut words out of a newspaper or magazine. Instruct him to choose five words he knows and five words he doesn’t. Post the words on the refrigerator and review them during the week.
Stage a play or a puppet show based on a favorite story or one you and your child create.
Have your child cut out words from a magazine or newspaper. Create a story together, using the words he chose. Glue them on poster board and illustrate the story.
Record your child reading, and play the recording back for her.
After your child reads a story, ask the “W” questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
Try story mapping, a favorite teacher activity in which the child lists the sequence of major events and actions taken by characters, then thinks about how they lead to the story’s outcome. Look for story mapping templates online, like these from Thinkport and Reading Rockets, or create your own.
Encourage your child to close his eyes while you read to him. He can visualize what is happening in the story.
Create alternate endings for a story.
Write and sing silly songs together, incorporating rhyming words when possible.
Take a character from a favorite book and make up a story involving that character. It’s fun to build a story around a secondary character, giving that character a starring role.
Make up a sequel to a favorite story.
Encourage your child to read stories to younger children, including siblings, cousins, friends, and neighbors.
Plan a reading night or reading hour when everyone in the family spends time reading without distractions.
Kids develop at different paces, so many of these ideas will work with older and younger kids. Volunteering in your child’s classroom will introduce you to other creative strategies teachers use to help kids learn to read. Your child’s teacher can also give you ideas based on your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
Reading is so important to your child’s success in school, it’s easy to get stressed out about it. You might worry that your child isn’t reading as fluently as other kids, or that she doesn’t enjoy reading as much as you’d hoped. Engaging in reading activities together is one way to help you feel less anxious and also help your child view reading as something fun that families can do together.