Growing Readers Review: The Parent's Role — How to teach children to read

Dad reading to his infant son sitting in his lap

As a parent, you play an important role in cultivating your child's love of books and learning to read by offering opportunities to interact with the printed word. Whether it’s your baby holding (and chewing!) a book, to your toddler pointing to illustrations, to your pre-kindergartener predicting what comes next in the story - you can make reading and sharing books part of every day. Remember to model a love of reading by allowing your child to see you with magazines, your own books, or even the sports page.

Some simple things you can do at home to grow your young reader include:

  • Establish routines that involve reading, including you reading aloud to your child and your child reading to you. Read a children's book or a chapter before bed. Read a poem at breakfast or just before dinner. Read a favorite book or poem while waiting at the dentist or doctor's office.
  • Respond to your child's questions in a conversational way, rather than using every question as an opportunity to tell or teach. Use questions as a chance to continue the discussion (What do you think? Why do you think that? How could we find out more?).
  • Get your child involved by letting him/her turn the pages or by helping them follow the text with their finger along the page.
  • Ask your early or pre-reader to retell a story to you by just looking at the pictures of a favorite book. Young children often use the pictures to help decode words or recall text. This will build vocabulary, imagination, and story sequencing.
  • Invite your child to finish a sentence, a rhyme, or the end of the story. With preschool books that have repetitive phrases (such as Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?), pause for your child to fill in the next words once he knows the text. This helps your child learn to predict what comes next, build memory skills, increase self esteem and confidence, and build rhyming skills.
  • Visit the library or a bookstore with your child. Provide your child opportunities to make his/her own selections by looking for favorite authors, illustrators, or subjects. Look at the illustrations or read a few pages together to generate interest and excitement before taking the book home.
Dad reading to his infant son sitting in his lap
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