Help Children With Reading Skills

By Heather Miller, Courier & Press, July 21, 2015 –

“Why do we have to read every day? It’s summer!” protests my nine-year-old son.

Amid groans and moans, the steadfast rule remains — 20 minutes of reading out loud daily. I grow tired of giving my list of explanations and often want to just give in, but the importance of helping my children learn to read and do well is too important to negotiate.

I like to equate reading time to brushing teeth, a preventive measure to help ensure issues later on in life (like cavities) are less likely to occur. My oldest struggles to be at grade level in reading, making it much more important to me to continue encouraging — and at times insisting — that reading practice happens.

According to the National Institute for Direct Instruction, poor reading performance in children may lead to anxiety, depression, inattentiveness, frustration, anti-social behaviors and even aggression. Furthermore, by secondary grades, most children are aware of their difficulties in reading, thus adding low self-esteem and low motivation to the list of issues that may result from poor reading performance.

The following five ideas may assist parents or caregivers with helping their child(ren) improve reading skills:

Make reading a scheduled part of your family’s day. Placing the same level of importance on reading (to your child as well as having your child read to you) as eating dinner will help ensure reading time is completed daily. After a few weeks, reading time will be simply part of your family’s day without thinking about it.

Many books are now movies. Before watching the movie, have your child read the book if possible. If your child wants to watch the Star Wars movies, check out the large selection of Star Wars books available at local libraries first. Paddington is a great selection for younger children. There are many books about Paddington that can be followed by the movie.

Check out Pinterest for ideas. There are many activities and resources to assist with encouraging literacy during childhood. Simple games such as Candyland can be adapted to teach sight words to school-aged children.

Make receiving a new book a treat. For Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Easter, birthdays or as rewards, pick up a book to give as a gift. There are many books at dollar stores that provide an economical way to promote reading. Helping children associate books and reading with excitement will help engage them in becoming a reader.

Model. In this case, it is important to “practice what you preach.” Allow your children to visibly see you spending time reading. Demonstrate the importance of reading over checking Facebook or watching TV. This will provide legitimacy when you encourage your children to make similar choices.

If you believe your child is struggling to read, contact your child’s teacher to voice any concerns and get ideas on how to help. If you are concerned that your child is having behavioral issues or low self-esteem due to reading concerns, your school’s Youth First Social Worker will be equipped to help you address these issues.