Most parents want their children to become proficient readers. They know thar reading is a vital life skill in our society. Most adults know that reading is an essential key to self-directed lifelong learning. Yet, at the end of fourth grade, only about 36% of children are proficient readers at grade level or above. This does not have to be!
We can do better!
Books and family reading in the home can have a greater impact on children's reading proficiency than what happens in the classroom. Children raised in print-rich homes tend to do better in learning. Some print rich homes are economical and get access to books through the library. Others slowly build a home library, even with second hand books.
Ben Carson's mom was barely literate. That did not stop her. She required her sons to read two books a week! It raised Ben's potential and gave him the tools to succeed.
Once a child can read, encourage them to do so. Lead the way by your example. Let free reading be part of homeschool. Let children read during quiet time in the afternoon. Beginning readers need plenty of opportunity to practice their new skills. It is helpful for them to experience three reading strategies every day. These are three different skills! Here are three strategies I feel help children become strong readers.
Three Reading Strategies
1. A Parent Reading Aloud to the Child
Reading aloud to your child reinforces that this is something grown-ups do. Children want to grow up! Reading aloud is a way to broaden their horizons, as well as a way to teach them about cultures, history, time periods, and people. When they become independent readers, keep reading aloud and let them follow in their own copy. Often times when children get to a word they do not know, they often skip the word or guess. When you read aloud to them as they follow with their eyes it helps build their visual and oral vocabulary, as they see and hear the word at the same time. Reading aloud also builds their listening skill. Just stop before you reach the end of their attention span.
2. The Child Reading Aloud
Reading aloud is a different skill than reading silently. At first, children lack fluency snd may stumble or read haltingly. This is normal! This is OK. Reassure them. Perhaps children could start reading aloud with their favorite illustrated bedtime story, poem, or scripture verse! Keep the read aloud sessions short. Let children read the passage, over again until smooth. Discuss the meaning of the text read. Suzanna Wesley did this with each of her children. They read Bible verses over again until they could read them smoothly.
With practice children will gain confidence and read with smoothness. Many parents struggle with reading aloud too. As children and parents get comfortable reading aloud, they can start adding inflection, tone of voice, and add interest to their reading. Soon, reading aloud can become a treasured family tradition. What's more is that as children gain read-aloud fluency, they will be more comfortable reading aloud in front of others.
3. The Child Reading Silently to Self
Reading silently to self is also another skill. A lot of reading good quality living books, builds up their experience with words, their knowledge base, and speed at reading.
Set the example. In a busy life, we can find as little as fifteen-minutes a day to read silently to self. As we chuckle or respond to what we read, this will catch your children's attention. They may begin to ask you about what you are reading! This also teaches them that reading is something grown-ups do. Children are trying to grow up and we are their example.
Try a reading basket or reading shelf. Select good quality books to place in a basket or on the shelf. Let children choose what interest them most.
A friend had an after dinner family tradition. They all gathered the dishes from the table, loaded the dishwasher and started it. They put the food away. Then they wiped the surfaces. Then they all grabbed their own books and read at the table. They would each laugh, cry, or verbalize their feelings as they read. They would share their favorite parts with each other. This was a print rich home!
Consider setting bedtime thirty minutes to an hour before your desired bedtime. Let your children know it is bedtime. However, let them know that you will let them stay up to read in their bed for thirty minutes. This elevates reading to the status of an award, something to be sought after.
I have found that Family Bible study can do all three. The children follow with their eyes, reading silently, while someone is reading aloud to them. At their turn, they can read aloud. If they are early in their reading journey it is OK to lap read one verse at their turn. That means you as a stronger reader, read while running your finger under the words, they say the words they can read, and you add the rest.
Regular daily Bible reading will give them the regularity at the discipline of reading and serves as a consistent base.
Add a classic to that daily reading aloud time and broaden their reading experience!
If your child struggles with attention span, consider reducing screen time and increasing outdoor play time. As they climb, spin, swing, slide, brachiate, run, and crawl, they build their core body strength that helps them focus. It also builds their visual pathways for reading.
Creating a print-rich home and your example are important. This, along with the three reading strategies and a lot of out door time can help your children become strong proficient readers.
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