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22 best tips to help your child become a better reader.

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

In this blog post, I will give you 22 ideas you can use to support reading for your child. These ideas will work for anybody whether they are good or poor readers. No magic wand will make reading easy for people who have dyslexia. But there are things that can support and encourage developing or struggling readers. Some of them do not teach reading but they will lend support kind of like a tomato cage lends support to a tomato plant. Tomato cages don’t actually help tomato plants make tomatoes, but they do help the tomato plant stand up and not lay on the ground in a big jumble. It’s easier to harvest tomatoes off a plant that isn’t laying on the ground in a big jumble of leaves. Some of these ideas will make it easier to harvest knowledge from books when you read them to your child or when they read the books themselves.

The next group of tips that I will give you are for all developing readers. They are kind of like the water and sunshine that plants need to thrive. Even if your child is in school you will have a big influence on how much your child will thrive rather than just survive. Where I live if you don’t water your plants regularly, they aren’t going to make it. We don’t depend on rain because if we did not very much would grow. I recommend you don’t depend on your child learning all they need to know at school either. The ideas in this category will encourage and strengthen the skills they are learning in school.

The final group of ideas are kind of like good soil. If you plant your garden in good soil and give it water it should grow. But sometimes the plants do not grow and are weak and don't produce much. There is a nutrient missing in the soil. You need to put some fertilizer on. In the same way, sometimes a reader does not thrive. There is something invisible but essential that is missing. The final group of ideas will give you things to try for those readers.

Tomato cage ideas support background knowledge. These ideas make sure that your child knows lots of things. If they already have knowledge about a topic and know vocabulary about it they will be able to read it better. When they sound out a word, they will recognize the word. If they know what it means they will be confident. You can use these ideas for every age from birth on. Make it part of your family culture to do these things together. Doing this will benefit everyone in the family and ensure that you have set the table for success.

1.) Read Aloud to your child. Your child is never too young or too old to read aloud to them. Some people even read to unborn babies and there is research on how this may help the baby’s brains develop. When your child is a newborn you can set a routine where you read to them at the same time every day. It will be a close snuggle time for you to spend together and your child will love it. They will not want to miss this time with you. As children get older some of them are don’t seem to want to sit still while you read to them. But don’t let that discourage you from reading every day to your children. It is fine if they want to draw, color, or play with Legos or a fidget toy while you read. They don’t have to be still. Here is a great resource for parents who are not sure what to read with their children or how to engage wiggly children: Read-Aloud-Revival podcast.

2.) Listen to audiobooks together with your child. Audiobooks are a great way to make the most of time spent in the car or doing things like chores. Without even thinking about it your child will hear and absorb the meaning of hundreds of words. Their vocabulary and knowledge will be increasing with every book you listen to. You can find lots of audiobooks for free through your library on Hoopla. By the way, this picture shows a child with headphones but it's a great idea to play the story so everyone can hear at once.

3.) Listen to dramatized stories with your child. This idea is related to #2 about audiobooks but it is a little different. Dramatized stories are not the same as audiobooks. In dramatized stories, the stories are acted out by different characters. It is like watching a play except that you do not watch – you listen. This is great for developing good listening skills. It is also a wonderful alternative to screen time. Your child can draw, color, play with Legos, or playdough or learn a craft while listening to stories. Without effort, they will increase their vocabulary and knowledge. A good place to find dramatized stories is Your Story Hour. These stories are character-building and teach history and Bible stories. These will be lessons that you will be glad your child learned. Moments will not be wasted, and besides, you will enjoy the stories also.

4.) Visit museums. Many museums are child-friendly with things to touch and explore. You can do a lot to instill in your children an interest in history and science by visiting museums often. Don’t forget about museums that bring books to life. What Books are you reading right now? Do a google search for a historical site you could visit. Are you planning a vacation? Do a little research about the place you are going to and find books you can read about the places you will be visiting.

5.) Talk with your child. There have been some interesting studies on how much parents talk to children. They have learned that children whose parents talk with them rather than to them are more ready for school. Read more about it here.

6.) Explain idioms. Idioms are those figures of speech that we use that if you think about them literally don’t make sense at all. An example would be “It’s raining cats and dogs outside.” Or “I have gotten myself into a pickle.” The English language has hundreds of idioms. Children are very literal thinkers and often misunderstand what you mean if you use an idiom. It is interesting to learn the history of idioms and how they came to mean what we understand them to mean today. There are several books that would be great fun for you to read together that explain idioms. This is the type of book that you could read during dinner together. One idiom per day and then spend time talking about it. It would give your dinnertime conversations a boost too. Here is a link to a place you can find some great books about idioms but of course, you can just get them at your library too.

7.) Read books yourself. When your child sees that you think reading is something worthwhile, they will desire it more. If your family culture includes reading lots of books your children will grow up wanting to read. They will see by watching you that reading is important and that it is worth spending time on. If you read a lot your child will understand that you find in reading great intrinsic value. They will want that experience as well. Look around your home – if a stranger were to come into your home would they be able to tell you value reading? Are there bookshelves with books in them? Do you have books from the library on your counter? Are there books for both children and adults in your home? Or are your bookshelves full of movies or toys? Or maybe you don’t have any bookshelves? Your child will know how important reading is to you. If it is not something important to you it is less likely to be something they will value for their own lives.

The next group of ideas are to encourage and strengthen the skills of beginning readers. These ideas are like watering your tomato plant and making sure it gets sunshine and air. Every plant needs those things. And every beginning reader will benefit from these ideas.

8.) Have your child read out loud to you for 10-15 minutes every day. Research shows that poor readers do not improve by reading silently for 15 minutes a day. But they do improve when they read out loud with a parent or teacher and receive feedback on their reading. You do want to correct their mistakes. If they make so many mistakes that you worry about discouraging them the book they are reading is too hard. You will want to find decodable books that contain only things that they will be able to sound out. Decodable books are made up of words that will be phonetically decodable.

9.) Reread. When your child has sounded out a sentence but not very smoothly have them reread it. If they have read a story and like it a lot - reread it. If you have read a chapter book and then watched the movie - reread the book. Rereading is a great way to increase fluency. You can read more about how rereading can help increase fluency here. It is also a great way to practice and to glean knowledge from classic books. Your child will understand more and pick up on new vocabulary with each rereading of a book. Enjoy!

10.) Learn about prefixes and suffixes. A prefix or suffix is a letter or letters that we add to the beginning or end of a base word to change the word. These little parts of words that have meaning. Parts of words that mean something are called morphemes. Good readers and thinkers know the parts of words that have meaning. Here is a YouTube video to watch with your young reader to introduce them to prefixes and suffixes.

11.) Learn about Latin roots and Greek combining forms. Latin roots and Greek combining forms are the language of higher education. In kindergarten, through 3rd grade, your child will not need to know these words. But by the time they are in high school, they will benefit from knowing the meanings of them. 60% of the English language comes from Latin. And another 10-12% comes from Greek. Like suffixes and prefixes, these word parts are morphemes. Morphemes are parts of words that have meaning. You can learn that the Latin root "tract" means to pull. Then you can notice words like tractor, traction, distract, and more. There are many books can help you learn about Latin and Greek roots.

12.) Learn to use a dictionary and thesaurus. Today these resources can be an app or an old-fashioned book. It would be great if your child learned to use both. That way as they read they can look up new words and grow their vocabulary. And when they are writing they will be able to choose from a large variety of words to make their writing more interesting.

13.) Banned words. Banned words are a fun way to work on increasing vocabulary with your children. It involves choosing words that you will ban and then coming up with lots of synonyms that can be used instead. For example, in our home, we banned the word “got” and came up with other words that could be used in the place of “got”. The other words included – purchased, received, obtained, attained, bought. Then we made a poster of our banned word and the alternatives and posted it on the wall. Other good words to ban are “said”, “walked”, “saw”. Children will have a great time coming up with sentences that are much more sophisticated than usual. They will be proud of their larger vocabularies and other people will be impressed too.

14.) Vocabulary cartoons. Vocabulary cartoons is a book that helps you remember the meaning of new words. Learning new vocabulary this way sticks much better than learning a dictionary definition. And it is more fun too. This is another idea where you can read one or 2 pages a day, maybe during dinner.

15.) Learn spelling rules. Reading and writing are two sides of one coin. Learning spelling rules will help children read and write better too. I have written a blog on this and you can find that blog here.

There are times that you have done everything right but your child is still not catching on. I know from experience. You can do all these things and more and still have If a child that is struggling with reading. Even though the interest and desire are there. About 1 in 5 children have dyslexia. These children will struggle even if they have a perfect environment for encouraging reading. It is not your fault or the teacher’s fault. You need some extra help. This is like the tomato plant that is getting all the love and attention but is still not thriving. Something is missing in the soil. You need to add fertilizer. These next ideas are like fertilizer for those who are struggling. Don't give up - they can become successful readers.

16.) The book Equipped for Reading Success. This book, by David A. Kilpatrick PhD., explains orthographic mapping and phonemic awareness. Things that are automatic for good readers. The first part of the book is pretty technical. The second half has a lot of things that you can use with your struggling reader. I love to use the one-minute exercises to practice phonemic awareness. If I had this book back when my daughter was struggling to learn to read we would have done a one-minute exercise 2 or 3 times every day.

17.) Rhyming books and games. Rhyming games can be as simple as saying “what rhymes with hat?” and then coming up with lots of things that rhyme. You can talk about what a rhyme is. It has a different beginning sound but the vowel sound and everything after the sound are the same. Most poor readers are also not very good at rhyming. Anything you can do to help them improve their auditory skills is a great idea.

18.) Point out and talk about compound words. Compound words are 2 words that are put together into one word. The English language is full of them. Can your child hear the two words and take them apart? For example ask them to say “sandbox without box”.

19.) Count syllables and listen for accent in the syllables. The better your child gets being able to break words apart into smaller pieces the better. After they begin reading multi-syllable words you will also want them to learn how to divide the word into syllables on paper. Then they can read the word one syllable at a time. There are 6 different types of syllables. The type of syllable it is will determine what sound the vowel will make. Being able to hear syllables is going to make reading multi-syllable words easier.

20.) Make sure your child is reading books at the right level for them. If your child is struggling this can be hard because a lot of books will say they are level 1 but have lots of words that are not easy to read. If your child is making a lot of mistakes they are only going to be frustrated and discouraged. What you need is a decodable book. Some people think decodable books are not authentic and interesting. But your child will find more success reading a decodable book. Success is very motivating. You can read the more interesting authentic books out loud to them. Here is the ultimate guide to decodable books.

21.) Hire a tutor. Sometimes you need some help. At school, the teacher has a room full of children and most of them are moving along at a faster pace. If you homeschool you are trying your best but you may not have the training you need. You are trying to do things that will help your child improve their reading skills but the more time that goes by the more discouraged your child gets. The more discouraged they get the more uncooperative they become. Sometimes a little outside help will do wonders. If you are ready to move ahead with this step please contact me or fill out this form for a free assessment.

22.) Attend tutoring with your child and practice with them daily. I encourage parents to attend tutoring with their children. That way they can practice what we learn for a few minutes each day. You are not required to do this unless they are very young or need help with focusing but it is beneficial. If you do not attend tutoring, you will not understand what we do. Then you will not be able to do as much to help practice the new skills they are learning. I am not a big believer in homework, but I am a big believer in multiple short practice times. If you do this your child will soon start to have the success they have been striving for all along. You will see their confidence grow. Once they have those reading skills they will be able to learn about anything they desire to learn about. Reading is the key to all the treasures of knowledge.

I hope you will find these 22 ideas encouraging. I do not want anyone to feel overwhelmed by them. You only need to choose one of these ideas or two. Don’t think that you must do everything on this list if it seems like a lot. Or maybe you are a person who has already done most of these things and they are a way of life for you. Either way, if your child is struggling to become a good reader you may need to use the ideas in the third category. Happy reading in 2022!

Do you want a printable list of the 22 points in this blog? If so please click here.

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