Reading has been shown to be the most effective and useful way to increase learning and interest in children. Not only does reading books increase your knowledge about the world, but each book contains a different story to share. Especially for programs such as phonics, which is important for learners of English, reading independently is the ultimate goal of these programs. And there are proven steps to improve your child’s reading and see big steps in their classes and grades in school
We have shared a list of the top 8 ways to improve your child’s reading.
Take some time to read through them and learn how to improve your child’s reading!
8. Have a special Time to read
To start off improving your child’s reading, its best to pick a special time during the day for reading. The reason for this is it creates a ritual for your children to read books, and will let them be able to focus on reading without being distracted.
This time could be after school, just before bed, or on the weekends. The most important thing is this time is for your student to sit down and focus on a good book in a quiet environment, for them to improve their reading. Try to spend around 30 minutes each day, possibly 20-30 minutes for younger children, to focus on reading. After a while you will see improvements on their ability and mindset on reading.
Try doing this:
-Find the best time during the day, maybe after school or at night, to focus on reading everyday.
– Find a comfortable and quiet spot with enough lighting.
– Gather all the things you may need, such as a book, pencil, paper, dictionary and drink.
– Set a length on how long you will read (30 minutes is recommended), and stick to this time. This will teach your children that this is reading time, and they need to focus on this.
-Put away your cell phone and other electronics, so there are no distractions for your children.
You can also try to make a quiet environment for your student to sit down and focus on studying. Most children’s days are filled with activities and noisy distractions, so they need a quiet time to sit down and study. Studies have shown that a quiet environment is best for students learning, to allow them to think clearly.
Not only being quiet, but also make a comfortable setting for children for them to relax. Find a cozy sofa or chair for them to read, or buy a comfortable pillow or stuffed animal (for younger children) for them to snuggle with while they read. You could also buy some tasty drinks for them to sip on when they read books.
7. Surround them with books
Surrounding your children with plenty of books and other reading materials helps expose them to more stories. Some studies have even suggested that having more books at home influences the level of education of children more than the income or education level of their parents. Children who grow up with more books at home seem much more interested in reading and studying.
You can be creative in where you surround the books for your children. Put books not only in their bedroom, but you can also have some in the living room, in their backpack, at school or in your car. If your children always have access to a good book, they are more likely to want to pick it up and read it. The reason why cellphones are so useful to us is that we have 24/7 access to them, and so should books be for children!
Here are ideas for exposing children more to books:
1) Take a visit to the library. Just because families don’t go to libraries as often as they used to, doesn’t mean they aren’t a useful resource for children. Research has shown that regular visits to the library not only leads to more reading but also more interest in books. You can try the local school library or the city libraries, if your school doesn’t have one.
Also visits to the library has other major benefits as well:
-Exposing your children to a larger variety of books
-Active learning and searching for new reading material
-Recommendations for good reading material for children from librarian
-Quiet place to ready and study
-Teaches responsibility of a library card and book return due dates
2)Go to a bookstore. For those with a busier schedule, you can take your children to one of the many bookstores, and browse the children & student section for some good books to read. They will have the most popular and age appropriate books for sale, and you can even have your child choose the one that interests them.
3) Have and read books as home too. If your children see that you have books and read as well, they will naturally want to follow what you do. This type of behavior can be seen in many different aspects of parents, such as their hobbies, how they talk, and even what they eat. Therefore, if you show your children that you read and have books at home as well, your children will want to read and own more books too!
6. Track their progress
Once your children start reading books, actively track their progress and see what types and how fast they are reading books. The school’s report cards and grades for English class is a good indicator for dictations and examinations in class, but may not accurately represent the learning and reading level of your student. The school may also not know the weak areas of your student as some classes have over 30 students each.
You should track the progress of your student reading, and see what types of books the are reading, and how fast and accurately they are reading them.
Here are some ways to better track on how to improve your child’s reading:
– Try choosing popular books from the same author or storyline. This way you have many books for your children to read, and can easily see when they finish and book and start a new one.
For example the series Peppa Pig has many individual books with seperate stories for children to read and learn from. You can track when you student finishes a books about Peppa Pig Goes Camping to Peppa Pig: My Daddy.
-Give rewards for finishing books. In order to encourage your student to read more, you can also give rewards for finishing books, as in food, toys or playtime. This will enable you to track their progress easily when they finish a book, and you can ask them questions to see if they understand what they read. If speed through the book only for the reward without understanding the story, have them re-read the book until they know the words and story inside.
5. Reading out loud
There have been numerous studies throughout the years of the added benefits of reading out loud with your children. It not only creates a better bond with your children, but is also better for their reading and understanding of the story:
Here are the top reasons why reading out loud is good for your kids:
Created a better relationship with your children
Reading out loud together can promote bonding with your children, and allows you to have good quality time together. It also adds a new social aspect to their reading by sharing this activity with someone else. It opens up more opportunities to read, talk and laugh about a story together.
Develop stronger vocabulary and connection to written words
Children learn new languages mainly through listening. Reading out loud allows them to hear the words in the story, and also to let them remember the vocabulary they read. They also learn the connection between the words on the page and their spoken words when reading the story out loud. This is important for learning and child development.
Increased focus and attention span
Reading out loud actually increases children’s focus and attention when reading books. The reason for this is they are actively pairing their voice and their thoughts, which takes a lot of focus. Even listening to someone read requires much more attention than other activities, such as watching television or listening to music.
Builds confidence and exploring emotions through stories
Many young children lack the confidence to read to others, or are too shy to read out loud. Practicing reading out loud often builds their confidence and also allows them to express their emotions through the characters in the stories, such as happiness, sadness, curiosity and excitement.
Provides enjoyment for children
Students often find reading out loud is just fun too! Many children love the spotlight and being able to read a story and have someone listen can be enjoyable for them. They can also express their emotions through their reading and in the characters, and allow them to develop a lifelong love of reading.
Try it yourself! Find a good poem or short story, and try reading it out loud for a couple of minutes each day. You will soon notice the benefits of reading out loud.
4. Ask a lot of questions
There’s a lot more to understanding a story than just reading the books itself! There are things you can do before and after reading a book. Like watching a trailer before a movie, it’s good to ask questions about the story before you actually read it! This way gets your children’s minds interested and focused on what’s in the book, ie. the characters and the story.
Here are some tips for good questions you can ask about every book:
(Look at the cover)
What do you think this book is about?
What things do you see on the cover?
What characters do you think may be in the story?
What kind of story do you think it will be?
What does the Title tell you?
During the reading:
What is happening in the story?
What are the characters doing?
Why are they doing this?
How do they feel?
How would you feel if you were them?
What pictures do you see?
What does this word mean? Why do they feel like this?
Did something like this ever happened to you?
What do you think will happen next?
What was the story about?
Tell me the story in your own words.
What character did you like the best? Why?
Did you like the ending? Why or why not?
If you could make another ending, what would it be?
What questions do you still have for the author/characters?
What characters would you want to meet in real life?
Would this story make a good movie, tv show, or video game?
Importance of open-ended questions vs. closed-ended questions
Open-ended questions are much better to ask when reading a book than close ended questions, as they make your children become more active and creative. It requires much deeper thinking and understanding to answer these types of questions. They often start with one of the five Ws words: Who, what, where, why and when.
Examples of Open-ended questions are:
-Why did the characters feel sad?
-How did the cow jump over the fence?
Compare this to close-ended questions, which can be answered with a “yes” or “no”.
Open-ended questions often allow the students to be more creative, think of new ideas, use more words and vocabulary, conduct problem solving and critical thinking, and have a deeper understanding of the story and words in a book. Alternatively, close-ended questions often do not require the children to actively participate in answering the question, which can harm their learning potential.
A good strategy is also to mix up open-ended and close-ended questions together, as only one or the other can be a bit tiring for the student. You can ask like this:
Close-ended question: What animal do you see on the cover? Do you like it?
Open-ended question: Why do you like/not like it?
Close-ended question: Where did you see this animals before? Outside or the zoo?
Open-ended question: What happened when you went to the zoo? How did you feel?
You can try this strategy to move along the conversation, and help students to better understand the story and enjoy the reading much more!
Sometimes students may want to read the book at one time, and asking too many questions can stop their progress. You can always let them read it the first time, and go back and ask more questions on the second reading.
Less confident or quieter students may also need some encouragement for reading, so you can try to add in more close-ended questions at first, to get them started. You can ask questions with an embedded question for them to answer easily, such as “Ah you like elephants? Did you see them at the zoo?”.
You can also try to answer some of your questions yourself with funny or weird answers, so the kids can say no to your funny answer, and give their own suggestion.
3. Learn phrases as well as vocabulary(Chunking)
Don’t cram vocabulary! Yeah, you heard it right. Don’t cram vocabulary!
Studies have shown that our minds can only memorize and hold so many words at a time, and that our brains have an easier time to remember a pattern of words. Rather than memorize a bunch of unrelated words, it’s much better to study in small groups, or chunks, that can help us remember key phrases and vocabulary.
For example if you were to memorize a bunch of letters together such as cslhkbnmtrhsbctvbklntst, it might be hard to remember them all at one. However, if you chunk them into csl-hkbn-mtr-hsbc-tvb-kln-tst, I bet you would be able to remember them much easier and faster than before.
Here are some nice ways to practice chunking when learning vocabulary, phonics and blending words.
a. Get the vocabulary you want to study.
If it’s a certain topic, such as greetings, animals, food, weather, etc., get the useful vocabulary you want to learn for these. Try not to overload it on new vocabulary, or else it will be hard to chunk the phrases and remember many words. Try to keep it under 10 new words per session.
B. Find some useful phrases for the vocabulary
Search for useful phrases for each vocabulary. You can look in books or online, and even use two vocabulary words in one phrase, to reduce the number of phrases your child has to learn. You can also learn a new phrase for each word. Just make sure that the phrases are not too long, under 5 words, so the students can remember.
For example if you are learning colors, instead of learning each color individually, you can pair an animals with them. For example, a pink pig or a blue bird. Another example of this is in greetings. There’s a reason why the phrase, “How are you?”, “I am fine, thank you” is easily remembered by children. It’s because it comes in chunks!
C. Practice the chunks and remember by heart
After you have the phrases and vocabulary you want to learn, study and repeat them so your children can memorize them. You can play audio recordings, flash cards, writing or copying, and talking about them. If your child is a visual learner, flashcards or videos may be better for them to learn the phrase and memorize it in their mind.
D. Mix up the chunking to test their knowledge
After your children have memorized the phrases well, you can mix up the chunking with other keywords to see if they have remembered the vocabulary. This will avoid students relying on the same phrase over and over again, and may make it more interesting for them.
After repeating the phrase “How are you? I am fine, thank you”, many young students are surprised when you can say “I am happy, or I am sad, or I am hungry”, as they thought this phrase could never change. This will not only expand their understanding of English, but also increase their vocabulary as well.
2. Appropriate reading level
One of the most important ways to improve your child’s reading is to find their reading level. Students are sometimes forced to a higher reading level, which may not be the best or most suitable level for them.Nothing is worse for kids when they pick up a book, but don’t understand a single word or the story is too hard to understand.
Before you push your students to certain books or reading material, its best to find out their reading level. Here are some ways to find out a child’s reading level.
- Reading Assessment.
The first step is to have the children take a reading level assessment test, which will have sight words for each grade or primary level. Often times this assessment is based off of the San Diego Quick Assessment form, however this can be altered or changed to students where English is not their mother tongue. Have the students try to read or decode the words, and count how many mistakes they make. Zero or one mistakes would indicate they are independent, two or three mistakes means they are in the middle, and four or would mean the material is too difficult for them and they should be at a lower level. For the reading assessment, the focus is on decoding and blending the word, and its not necessary to know the meaning of the word. This assessment would give you a base on your students level.
- Vocabulary Assessment
After you have a gauge on their reading level, find some books in that level, and pick out the common vocabulary to see if the children know these words. This is important as you do not want your student to be reading a page full of unknown words. You can gather a sample of words from many different books or reading material, and see if the students are able to read and understand these words. You can start with very basic words and move up to see how many words they know. After you know which words they know and don’t know, this will help you choose not only the level but also the topics and types of books.
- Comprehension Assessment
After you know the level and known vocabulary of the child, you can read a book or two for a sample to see how much of the story the children understand. After reading a book, ask the children some questions to see how well they understand the story and characters. You can even make a scale of 0 to 5 for how much they understood the story. Even though some students reading ability may be good, and they can read and pronounce each word in a story, does not necessarily mean that they understand the story at all. This last assessment is important as student’s will also want to read stories they can understand and remember for later on.
After you have done these three assessments, you should have a good idea on what reading level your student is. As schools may have different methods or curriculums for what books each grade reads, it’s important to know what the reading level of your child is. This will help you find an appropriate book for them to be able to read either together, or for them to read on their own.
1. Read something that interests them
The most important way to improve and help a child’s reading is to find something that they are truly interested in! There is no good substitute for children’s curiosity, and you should encourage their interests and goals in the future. You can start be helping them find books that they are interested in.
Similar to someone working at a miserable job or having a horrible boss, the same can be said for a student reading a bad book. Each page becomes a chore, and they will want to speed read through the book just to finish it. This is why it’s best to find a genre or type of book that they love and will read night and day.
Below are some ways to find books for your children:
First find out what they are interest in!
Just because they are not interest in reading does not mean they do not have other interests. Try to find out what things they are interested in, and move on from there. Do they like a certain cartoon, movies, sports, games, animals, drawing, arts & crafts and others. Once you identify what things they like, you can try to find easy reading about that topic. You can start with picture books about that topic and slowly move onto books with more words and texts for them to read.
For example, if your child really likes animals, you can get a few national geographic magazines for kids, and flip through the pages and look at only the pictures. Or buy some sound books and let them read the stories with fun songs and sounds. Slowly, you introduce a few words of a title, and then move onto reading the books. Otherwise, you can stick to more children’s books, such as Peppa Pig or the bedtime stories to get them started.
Find a good author
Once you have found out what interest them, try to find out the book series or a famous author who writes books about them. For instance, if your children like the story of The Cat in the Hat, you can also introduce them to other books by Dr. Seuss. This will allow students to have the same style of book and become comfortable with how the author writes and illustrations. Once they have a comfortable base, they will be able to expand and try other books as well.
Expand their reading types
Once your child starts to read more and more books, it’s better to slowly expand their reading and have them read harder and more challenging books with more words. You can keep track of the words counts per book, and gradually try to increase it to help their reading skills. You can also expand their reading genres to not only more leisurely books, such as games or cartoons, but also to more academic books they would find in their school. This will help them move on to books that help them better understand the world around us, and also so that they do not get too comfortable with reading only easy books with pictures.
Improve your child’s reading
Hopefully these 8 ways to improve reading will help your child in the future. While not everyone may agree on their order of importance, at least you have learned some valuable information and methods on how to focus on improving your children’s reading. We believe that reading more and more books will unlock your child’s potential and help them become a lifelong learner!