Reading is a task that is unfortunately just not as interesting to today’s children as it used to be. Do the children you know willingly grab a book to read or look at? Most likely, no. They would rather waste their days away staring at a small screen listening to “Daddy Finger, Daddy Finger, where are you?” over and over again while Peppa Pig and Batman battle each other to the death. Hence, it can be difficult to improve a child’s reading skills when they don’t want to read.
Although it does not make much sense to parents who would KILL to have five minutes to themselves to read each day, it is a sad reality with today’s youth. So, how can you improve your child’s reading skills even if they do not enjoy reading?
Check out these ten tips for how to improve child’s reading skills through everyday tasks:
1. Use Their Technology
Your child doesn’t like actual books? No problem. Download some e-book apps for his iPad. For really resistant readers, you can even search for e-books that can be read TO them. Even if he is not reading himself, he is still soaking in format, sentence structure, letter sounds, sight words, etc. Tell your child to listen to or read one short e-book (or one or two chapters for older children) per day, and then give him an incentive. “Want to listen to ‘Daddy Finger’ for the next hour? Okay, read your story first. And then put your headphones on!”. Improve a child’s reading skills by using what he loves against him? Check!
2. Study Signs
Make a game out of looking at road signs, store signs, and any other signage you may find while you are out and about. You may be surprised at how quickly your child begins to recognize words like “Exit” and “Stop” after you repetitively read them when you see them. Now if it was only that easy for him to adhere to your repetitive request to stop cutting off his sister’s doll hair.
3. Sing Songs Together
Kids songs may not always be the most enjoyable for parents to sing (in fact, they can drive you absolutely crazy as you hum them while you attempt to fall asleep), but singing them can be a great way to improve literacy. Songs can help teach children rhythm, syllables, and rhyming. Choose songs that have educational value too, like those that specifically teach letters and letter sounds.
4. Have Family Reading Time
This one may be more like Make Your Child Angry By Forcing Her to Spend Time With Family and READ Time for awhile, but eventually, setting out 20-30 minutes of quiet reading time with the family every day will have serious benefits. Start small, with maybe just a few days per week or 5-10 minutes per day. Read books that everyone will enjoy, or ones that older siblings can read to younger siblings to get everyone involved.
5. Write Notes to Your Child
Stick a cute note in your child’s lunch box, or send her a card at camp. Even younger children who do not yet read can pick up some important literacy skills with this simple approach. Kids will begin to understand that writing is a way to communicate thoughts, and reading is a way to understand those thoughts. You may want to refrain from baring some of your innermost thoughts – like how little you appreciate the chunks of dried toothpaste she left on the sink this morning – and stick to the simple “Have a good day, can’t wait to see you soon!” thoughts.
6. Create a Vocabulary Word of the Day/Week
Kids love using new words they learn – any parent who might have slipped with some expletives after the dog’s tail got pulled for the 15th time understands this. Create a fun vocabulary word of the day or week for you and your child to use in as many ways as you can think of. Write it down in a central part of your family space, like a big chalkboard in the living room. Point out the letters and letter sounds in the word and use your finger to slide across the letters as you read it. Your child will learn to recognize the word and learn its meaning through extensive use through the day or week.
7. Talk About Stories
An important thing to remember as you read with your child or after he reads is to talk about what he read. All it takes is 5-10 minutes with a few questions to get your child talking about a story. This helps develop reading comprehension and can actually get him more engaged as a reader when he sees how interested you are in what he reads.
8. Tune Into Her Interests
Does your child have any interests that really fascinate her? Or, is she into maps or checking the weather? As peculiar as her interests may be to you, they are what makes her tick as a person. So, tap into these interests to make her enjoy reading even more. Have her scan the internet for local weather reports or find the directions to your grocery store and have her read them as you drive there. Try to squeeze in as many sneaky reading tasks as you can each day, you stealthy parent, you.
9. Get a Book Club Membership
Many children’s book clubs are priced well for those on a budget and you can tailor the books you are sent to your child’s age, reading level, and interests. There are so many books available in book stores that it can actually be overwhelming for your child to pick one to read. But book clubs can take the guesswork out of finding the perfect book to interest your little one. The more interesting it is to him, the better the chance of him wanting to read it!
10. Make a List of Known Words
Parents know that accomplishing something makes kids feel good about themselves. So why not give them a visual of their accomplishments? Write down or type up a list of the words your child can successfully read on her own. Next, add to the list each time she reads and correctly says a new word. (Except for those unfortunate parental slips mentioned in tip #6 – you will definitely want to omit those!). Then, offer a reward for a major milestone, such as reading 50 words.
Remember: YOU are your child’s primary teacher. Read with him, engage with him, and share his interests through reading. In doing so, you are setting an example that reading provides quality time and a fun learning experience you both can enjoy and you’ll improve a child’s reading skills one step at a time.
Amy is a mom of two, freelance writer, and blog manager who works with family-focused businesses to improve their content strategies. You can find her published work on Reader’s Digest Online, MSN, Niche, Frugal For Less, and other lifestyle publications.