How To Improve Your Child's Reading Skills At Home

The ability to read fluently and at a good speed is an essential skill to help a child do well in academics. Here are some ways you can enhance your child’s reading skills.

By Sushma Sosha Philip and Susan Philip

How To Improve Your Child's Reading Skills At Home

The more that you read,

The more things you will know.

The more that you learn,

The more places you’ll go.”

- Dr. Seuss (I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!)

An introduction to the world of books is the best gift that you can give your child. But, with even toddlers operating cell phones and having access to the Internet, reading is fast becoming a lost art. This is where you, as a parent, need to step in.

A 2014 study by Ndileleni P Mudzielwana titled, ‘The role of parents in developing reading skills of their children in the foundation phase’, published in Journal of Social Sciences, 2014, stated that the involvement of parents is instrumental in developing good reading habits in children. This study derived its conclusion from a number of other studies conducted on the subject. Based on the research, it is clear that parents need to play an active role in ensuring that their children imbibe good reading habits. Children also develop their creative thinking and reading comprehension skills through reading. Here are ways you can help make reading fun for your child.

  1. Dedicate time to reading: To get your child into the habit of reading, it is important to make time every day to read with him. For example, every night before his bedtime, you could read him a story or help him to read one. This activity will help him get into the habit of reading regularly, and, at the same time, make him relate to reading as a relaxing activity rather than a chore that needs to be completed. But, while reading to your child, make sure you follow the words with your finger as you read. This will make him familiar with words and their pronunciations.
  2. Build contextual reading skills: If not dealt with properly, difficult words can discourage your child from reading at a higher level and eventually she may stop reading altogether. Instead of asking her to look things up for herself, it would be helpful to ask her to figure out what the words could mean, given the context of the sentence. Though, initially, this will take time it will help your child’s reading comprehension skills in the long run.
  3. Limit screen time: In today’s day and age, it is difficult to get children to concentrate on books thanks to the television and the smartphone, which are more visually stimulating. To ensure that your child develops the habit of reading, it is important to reduce the amount of time he spends on the Internet or the television. This will encourage him to turn to books for entertainment.
  4. Enrol in a library: It is important that your child is exposed to a wide variety of books and different forms of literature from the start to help her fully appreciate and enjoy the activity of reading. The best way to ensure this is to enrol her at a local library with a good selection of children’s books. Another advantage of joining a library is that, very often, libraries hold workshops, competitions and other activities that are centred around books and reading. Encouraging your child to take part in these activities will make her associate reading with fun.
  5. Pick age-appropriate books: Make sure that your child reads books that are appropriate for his age and reading level. He may be afraid to step out of his comfort zone and continue reading books much below his level. This will result in him not learning much from the experience and getting bored quickly. Alternatively, he may be progressing too quickly and may become discouraged due to the complexity of words and concepts. So, make sure to pick age-appropriate books for your child.
  6. Encourage exploration: There is a wide variety of exciting literature available for children nowadays, from poetry and fiction to non-fiction and graphic novels. Allow your child to experience all kinds of literature even if you aren’t familiar with them. As long as it is age-appropriate, your child should explore the world of books by herself and decide what she enjoys the most.
  7. Lead by example: Instead of surfing the Net, pick up a book during your downtime. This will show your child that you don’t just tell him about reading but put your preaching to practice. When he sees you picking up a book often, he will be inspired to do so himself.
  8. Get creative: Apart from reading regularly, it is also important that your child improves her reading speed and comprehension. To ensure this, play word games where she has to use new words she has read recently in a sentence. Reading also helps develop a child’s creative faculties. So, to get her creative juices flowing, discuss the books she has read and encourage her to create stories based on them.
  9. Don’t push too hard: If you push your child too hard to read, or if you make it seem like a chore or responsibility rather than a way to pass the time, he will be more inclined to resist your efforts. As a result, not only will he be less competent when it comes to reading and comprehending long and complicated texts later, he would have also missed out on great opportunities of learning. So, instead of pressuring him to read, allow your child to set the pace he is comfortable with, all the while demonstrating that reading is fun.

Reading goes hand in hand with learning. To ensure that your child is a lifelong learner, make sure he picks up the habit of reading from a young age. 

Sushma Sosha Philip is a lawyer with experience in corporate law and IPR. She is currently pursuing her Master's degree from the University of Leiden.

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