It’s no secret that developing strong reading skills early sets an important foundation for school success. The first four years of schooling especially are a critical time for children to learn foundational skills in reading such as language skills and comprehension.
According to the 2015 Nation’s Report Card, only 36 percent of fourth-grade children are proficient readers. The other 64 percent are considered basic readers and are more likely to fall behind in other subjects such as social studies, science and mathematics. Today, even in mathematics, good reading skills are a requirement for the many word problems even little kids encounter. That’s why reading proficiency by the end of third grade is one of the most important benchmarks in a child’s academic journey.
Parent involvement plays a vital role in helping children to achieve reading proficiency and fluency—the ability to read a text accurately, quickly and with expression. Instilling strong reading habits in children starting at a young age helps to keep the momentum through elementary school.
What exactly can parents do to help their child learn to read and become proficient?
Read to Your Child
Not only does reading aloud help deepen your relationship with your child, but it also helps expose her to deeper concepts, a richer vocabulary and a broadened worldview. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a policy statement recommending that pediatric providers advise parents that reading aloud to children from infancy to kindergarten builds language and literacy skills and stimulates brain development. This exposure to written text will help your child develop grammatical understanding and comprehension skills.
After children learn to read, parents often expect children to read on their own; but don’t stop! According to a 2014 Scholastic study, 86 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 8 said they really enjoy when parents read to them and nearly half of the children said they wish that their parents did not stop reading to them. When read to frequently, children can grow to love reading, and will take the initiative to read more on their own. Parents can select books from their local library or enroll their kids in an academic program such as Kumon, which offers a library of books and a recommended reading list (and Kumon encourages students to read a wide variety of level-appropriate books on topics that interest them to foster a life-long love of reading. Many books on the Recommended Reading List have won literary awards such as the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, and the Pulitzer Prize.
Listen to Your Child Read
Children should read books daily, but listening to your child read books aloud is even better. While building independent reading habits is important, fluency and comprehension are further developed through the process of reading aloud. Reading books that match ability level and interests exposes children to new worlds, cultures and points of view, while improving language skills.
In the beginning, parents can listen to their child “read” picture books to develop language skills and alphabet books to develop print awareness and letter sounds. The next step can be listening to your child read books with rhyming words and CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words. Parents read along silently and provide corrective feedback as needed for pronunciation. When the child isn’t able to handle a given word, parents should step in and help her sound it out.
Another method is parents reading aloud simultaneously with their child, which can help with voice inflection, pace, and pronunciation. Developing strength as a reader takes practice, persistence and hard work. Kumon’s Recommended Reading List can help parents with the selection of fun and level-appropriate books meant to be read by the parent and also books that are meant to be read aloud by the child.
Enroll in a Reading Program
According to the National Institute of Literacy, parents who teach specific literacy skills to their children were found to be twice as effective as parents who listen to their child read and six times more effective than parents who read to their child. Reading to children and having children read to parents is strongly encouraged, but providing actual instruction in specific literacy-related skills is the best method for parents to help their child learn how to read. However, the overwhelming majority of parents need guided reading materials to be able to teach their child important literacy skills.
Enrolling in a reading program sets an important foundation for short- and long- term school success. Reading programs — such as Kumon —enable parents to help their children learn how to read by providing individualized instruction and reading materials to do at home. Staying enrolled in a reading program that has a well-established curriculum is a great way for your child to first learn how to read and then for your child to attain reading proficiency.
Programs aim to cultivate a high level of reading ability in students and often times contain excerpts of material written by well-known and award-winning authors including Roald Dahl, John Steinbeck, William Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot. There are passages from all genres, exposing students to a variety of literary content and language structures in poetry, short stories, plays, science and history. When students read widely, they build a rich vocabulary, interpret meaning of language, analyze characters and gather background knowledge. As students build a strong foundation by becoming proficient in reading, they also develop critical thinking skills by analyzing passages of increasingly complex difficulty in fiction and non-fiction texts.