Reading plays a pivotal role in life.  Many don’t recognize it in our digital age, but reading skills are as important as ever as much of our information is now obtained from a screen – text, email, and webpage.  Much of inter-personal communication is now done through reading and writing, so expressing yourself and understanding others – the ability to communicate – is more and more depending on reading and writing skills rather than speech or oral communication.

From personal relationships to work and business, the skill of reading takes centre stage in personal success, achievement, connection, and self-esteem.  Fostering good reading habits in a person’s early stages in life is critical. Reading sparks curiosity and serves as the backbone of education.  Helping your children develop ability in reading and a love for reading is crucial to their personal and professional success.

Unfortunately, many children become disinterested or frustrated with the process of learning to read.   With that in mind, the tips below should help improve their reading ability and foster a love for reading at the same time:

Tip #1: Create a Fun and Supportive Learning Environment

Forcing children to learn something often feels like a chore, which kills the mood and sucks out the fun in everything. Learning should come from a person’s self-motivation to satisfy curiosities, explore, and communicate, which is only possible when establishing a supportive environment.

Having tools that promote reading accessible to your children is a great start. Making sure it’s a comfy spot also ensures your children can sit back, relax, and minimize distractions as much as possible.  Encourage imagination and dramatic play such as acting out scenes from the story.  Explore using silly voices for the characters with your child.  Allow your child to make the story their own – encourage them to make up their own story based on the pictures or suggest an alternate ending.  Don’t be married to the words on the page – feel free to “riff” and “freestyle”!  Allow your child to skip pages or flip back.  Follow their attention and interest, rather than reading “prescriptively” and worrying about reading “the right way”.

Another way to fan the flames of their curiosity is to let your child read books that catch their attention. If it comes from something they are genuinely interested in, it can help build their motivation and encourage them to put out more effort into reading.  Let your child choose the book – even if it means you end up reading the same book a thousand times – it is still valuable!

Tip #2:  Use Literacy-Related Play

Engaging children in a game that uses literacy-related playthroughs is an exciting method to build their vocabulary and oral language skills, and to marry those skills to written language.  It creates engagement and functional, integrated practise.

Try playing restaurant.  The customer can read the “menu”, and the server can write down the order, go and cook it, and then present a “bill” when they return.

Play police officer, and have the officer write out a “speeding ticket” to the rule-breaking adult. 

Use a label maker or tape and label the bins in your toy room, or make labels and alphabetize their little library.   

Write a letter to Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Paw Patrol game, or your favourite Pokémon character.

Get children interested in using letters to represent elements of their play, and to use writing for functional purposes, to be creative, to organize, and to problem solve.

It starts with scribbles, so just reward the effort – the intent to write – and encourage your child’s motivation to try writing.  Practise saying the words you want to write slowly and listening for the sounds you hear yourself say, and then help your child identify letters to write down that match those sounds.

Tip #3: Teach your child to actually READ

Most children don’t need extrinsic motivation to read.  A love of reading is actually quite natural, until it gets killed off and over-written by frustration because it is too hard.

Many schools overly focus on sight words and comprehension.  They teach children to try to recognize “whole words” and “sight words”.  They encourage strategies such as looking at the first letter and guessing, or guessing a word that would make sense in the context.  Unfortunately, this teaches GUESSING – it does not teach READING. 

The English language is far too tricky to try to guess at words.  Kids that guess usually guess WRONG, and this is a source of major frustration.  Help your child look at every letter in a word, and see if any letters may “group together”.  Identify the sounds within the words, and help your child blend those sounds together to make a word.  Talk about word meanings for any unfamiliar words you discover.  As reading gets easier, children can move past the emotional experiences of shame, embarrassment, despair, and frustration.  Only then can the magic and joy of reading emerge.

Tip #4:  Limit Screen Time

Most children’s apps, shows, and YouTube videos have screens that change within 2 seconds or less.  The result?  Your child’s brain begins expecting something novel and exciting to happen every 2 seconds in their life!  Wonder why your child wants to turn the page in the book when you are only half-done reading the page??  It’s no coincidence. 

Screen time is fun and engaging, and it is also creating a habit of shorter attention spans.  The brain craves novelty, and it gets addicted to stimulus.  Your child will start to seek novelty and change in their environment, and get bored with anything that is slow or repetitive.  Create good attention habits right from birth.  Encourage interest and attention in people’s faces, people’s voices, stories, nature, sports, hobbies/crafts etc. 

Model good habits as well – children who see their parents reading text-on-paper, rather than reading from a screen, are more likely to become avid readers and readers who read for enjoyment.

The Bottom Line

Reading is a fundamental need in every aspect of a person’s life – self-development, learning, communication, creativity, connection, and overall success. Getting your kid to sit down and enjoy reading can be a challenge, but the tips above should help you get started on the right foot.

If you’re looking for a speech therapy in Calgary that can help your child improve their learning, we’re your best option. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help!