You already know that reading is important for learning, but it’s also a great way to show your child love and attention. If you spend a few minutes every day with your children and a book, they will remember it their entire lives.
“When my mother read “The Gingerbread Man” to me, she couldn’t skip anything because I knew all the pages,” says Debbie Battles, former director of elementary education at the School District of Palm Beach County. “I still know every word: ‘You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!’ It’s a memory of my mother that I will always have.”
Just like Battles’s infatuation with the gingerbread man, children often want to read the same book over and over. You may get sick of it, but children memorize words by their sounds even before they start reading by themselves, Battles says.
Singing songs and reciting nursery rhymes is another way to learn words by hearing them, says Catherine Tedesco, Palm Beach County School District’s literacy manager for elementary education. Later, when we see words on the page, we remember them from the songs and rhymes: “Three blind mice!”
Words are everywhere — on the bus, in your car, in a store. Teach your child to notice words wherever you find them. You can make anything you do with your child an opportunity to learn new words, Battles says.
For example, tell your children in the grocery store, “Show me foods that begin with the letter D. Keep it interesting with other letters, with colors and numbers. You can play “I Spy” while driving. Your children will be too busy reading to ask, “Are we there yet?”
Also let your child see you reading. Go to the library and get a card for everyone in the family. Let your children pick their own books. Plus, the library offers free activities for all ages, from play groups to after-school homework help.
Build reading on your child’s tendencies and interests. “At the zoo, my favorite part was seeing the monkeys,” Battles says. “Let your child dictate a simple sentence. It’s their words. If you record what they say, they can read it and feel like they’re a reader.”
Books and songs are not the only way to learn words. If your children make drawings, ask them to tell you a story about them. Then you can write words to accompany the drawing: “sun,” “house” or “Dad.”
• Set aside a quiet, cozy place to spend a few minutes reading with your child every day.
• Your child wants to be like you, so let your child see you reading.
• Read with expression and take time to ask your child questions about what you are reading.
• If your child reads a story on your smartphone, that counts!
• If your child makes more than five mistakes per page, try an easier book instead.
• If you notice your children are reading more each day, congratulate them. You are building their confidence.
• Children with reading materials in their homes score higher on standardized tests, according to the Family Education Network.
• If a teacher says your child is not reading at grade level, ask if the school offers tutoring. Your public library also may offer homework help.
SOURCE: School District of Palm Beach County
• Debbie Battles, former director of Elementary Education, School District of Palm Beach County
• Catherine Tedesco, literacy manager of Elementary Education, School District of Palm Beach County
• Doris Saffran, Community Education specialist, Elementary Curriculum, School District of Palm Beach County/BRIDGES Liaison
• Jeanne Siccone, director of Children’s Literacy, Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County