Reading is an essential skill that has endless benefits for young children. Kids who read regularly stimulate their brain and improve their concentration. They absorb boundless amounts of information, improving vocabulary and comprehension in the process.  They learn grammar structure and boost their ability to communicate their thoughts and feelings much better than non-reading peers.

You can teach your child to read from an early age to get them interested in reading. As early as the newborn stage, you can read simple books that have bright, high-contrast illustrations. They won’t pick up on the actual reading habit until much later, but the rhythmic sound of your voice and exposure to various imagery will stimulate their interest in books.

It is essential to get your child interested in literature from a young age. Once they enroll in formal schooling, they may have trouble reading and find it challenging to keep up with peers. If your older child is getting a late start on establishing good habits, there are several practical reading interventions you can try at home immediately:

Introduce new words everyday

Having a strong vocabulary is key to improving reading skills.  It improves word recognition as well as comprehension.   Comprehension is dependent on cultivating a rich library of words. The more words a child knows, the better they will understand the context and meaning of a story. You can help them build their vocabulary by introducing a new, unfamiliar word to your child every day. Write the word and its meaning down on a prominent board or stick it to your refrigerator, and watch for opportunities to use it with your child throughout the day.

Many children find producing definitions difficult, and providing definitions falls more in the domain of “memorizing”.  In addition to providing a definition, provide an example sentence that uses the word in context to illustrate the meaning of the word.  Ask your child to produce a sentence using the target word.

Discuss the book after each chapter

Reading comprehension is another essential skill that will have multiple applications as your child grows. Aside from knowing what individual words or phrases mean, discussing the plot or storyline will help them uncover meanings and deepen their understanding of the book. Help them by relating what is happening in the book to instances in real life, or ask them what they think is the meaning behind a particular event in the story. Give them frequent opportunities to discuss the book with you to enrich their experience.

Point out that stories clearly establish context by introducing characters and a setting (where and when).  Stories also usually have an event that produces an emotional experience for the characters that has an outcome.  Create stories with your child.  They can be about anything that they want to share (e.g., last night in Walmart with dad …) When they tell you a story, point out the elements of a good story that you hear, or which elements are missing.

Read passages aloud

Like speaking a language, children have to become fluent in reading. To do this, they should be able to “hear” the words as they read them from the pages. As you read aloud, inject emotions into the phrases and use intonation to emphasize specific words. Help your child to overcome the boring, monotonous combination of words to see that they should evoke emotions, provoke thoughts, and stir their imagination.

It is beneficial to help your child figure out what a sentence says (to identify and recognize all of the words) and then to ask them to read it again with more expression now that they know what the sentence says.  If this is difficult, provide a model and ask them to copy.

Use phonics

Phonics is an essential approach to teaching reading. Whereas the previous suggestions emphasize the meanings of the words, phonics focuses on the sounds that the letters make. This method encourages children to make the sounds of the letters and then combine them into syllables and words. Rather than reading “what makes sense” in the sentence and recognizing whole words, the focus now is on attending to every letter, determining which letters may group together (e.g., “ch” group together to say one sound), and putting the sounds together to recognize a word.

You can choose books that specialize in stories using phonics. You can help your child approach unfamiliar words by “unpacking” the word.  I like to keep a sticky note pad nearby to keep track of tricky or interesting words that we can review after reading the book so that we don’t interrupt the process of reading or the flow of the story, which impacts comprehension.

Write the tricky word on a sticky note.  I like to place a dot for every sound you would hear when the word is said aloud.  This helps the child see which letters make a sound, and which letters group together around a sound.   I will also re-write the word with spaces between the letters to show how they group together to make sounds (e.g., knight kn  igh  t).  In this word, six letters combine to make a word with three sounds:  n-i-t.

This approach helps children recognize allowable spelling letter groups that are organized around a sound, which helps them read other words (e.g., “kn” can say /n/ in words like knight, know, kneel).  It is also a useful approach that prepares a child for “chunking” – recognizing parts of words which becomes essential for reading multisyllabic words that contain prefixes and suffixes (e.g., unhelpful un – help– ful). 

If your child is getting a late start on their reading skills, there is cause for concern.  It is essential is to find a reading intervention method that suits you and your child best. This should be done as soon as you notice they are having trouble reading. The older a child gets, the more difficult it may be to get them interested in reading at all.

Are you looking for effective reading programs in Calgary? We specialize in reading interventions that help improve children’s language and literacy skills. Contact us today to learn how we can help you take action!