Activities around reading and writing will be much more fun if you consider your child's interests when choosing material.
The following is a list of general recommendations that you can try at home to help foster improved language, reading, and writing skills.
Not all of these suggestions will be best for you and your child. Choose an activity that works best for you. If it doesn't work at this time, try it again later.
In this world when there are many demands on our and our children's time, it is important to prioritize time for reading and writing. Making time now will render benefits in the future. Many people opt to read together just before bedtime. Or, your child could read to you while you are preparing dinner. Ideally, try to have reading become a relaxed, fun routine in your day.
- Read with your child every day. Select topics that are motivating and interesting to your child. For example, if your child enjoys playing soccer, read fiction and non-fiction books about soccer players.
- Conduct a family reading time. Vary the reading material between books, magazines, newspapers, or others. Encourage your child to choose the material for that day.
- Help increase your young child’s awareness that words can rhyme by reading rhyming books frequently.
- Participate in library reading programs. Most libraries have information about the programs online or at their information desk.
- Explore different types of reading materials and methods of reading with your child. Examples may include:
- Books on tape. Have your child read along while listening to the audio version. Books on tape are available at most libraries and may be obtained free of charge through the National Library Service.
- Books available online. A large variety of books are available free of charge through Book Share.
- Choral reading. Read books out loud together.
- Poems. Read, memorize, and recite the words.
- Songs. Read the words of a song as you and your child sing it together.
- Recipes. Work on a cooking project together and have your child read the recipe for you. Simplify the recipe to your child’s reading level. For example, if your child is able to read simple words, use short phrases to represent each step. In a recipe for frosted graham crackers, the steps could include “graham cracker out” (get a single graham cracker), “spread frosting” (put frosting on), and “put on candy” (put sprinkles on the frosting). Use pictures to represent the steps or reinforce the written words for a beginning reader. Other simple recipes to read could include making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, lemonade, or Jell-O.
- Art project directions. Work on an art project together and have your child read the directions. Simplify the directions according to your child’s reading level using the strategies listed above. Simple art projects may include dyeing eggs, making a mask, or making a kite.
- Signs and license plates. Talk about the written words and letters you see as you drive.
- Create your own books with your child. For example, once your child is familiar with a few simple words (i.e. pat, hat, cat, or sat), create a simple book of these words. Have your child draw or cut pictures out of magazines to illustrate the book.
- Make lists with your child to practice basic writing and spelling skills. For example, make a list of who to invite to a birthday party, what foods to eat, and what games to play. You can also write grocery shopping lists or put upcoming events on a family calendar.
- Compare books to the movies. For example, read the Harry Potter series books or any Disney book and then watch the movie. Talk about similarities and differences between the versions.
- Play sound and word games to improve your child’s phonemic awareness. Some examples include:
- The Name Game
- Change words in songs. First sing a familiar song, such as “Happy Birthday,” then sing it again and change the first sound of each word. Use the first sound in your child’s name to begin. For example, if your child’s name is Mary, the new song would be “Mappy Mirthday Moo Moo.”
- “Pig Latin”
- Make up new words
- Break up words into individual sounds and have your child guess the word
- Play games that promote language and literacy skills include Scattergories (Milton Bradley) and 20 Questions for Kids (University Games). Games that promote literacy skills include Word Flip (Discovery Toys) and UpWords (Milton Bradley).
- Improving expression during oral reading can be targeted through a Reader’s Theater. The whole family can participate in reading the lines and acting in a simple play using a familiar story, such as “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” or “The Three Little Pigs.” Most of these stories have repeated lines that can be written out on cards for your child to recite when acting out the story. All readers can read from a “script” and no memorization, costumes, or special lights are needed. The focus should be on reading the text with expressive voices and gestures. You can practice this using modeling, choral reading, and multiple repetitions of the same passages. This can also help to improve reading fluency and comprehension.
- Start a family journal where you take turns writing about recent and future activities.
- Provide a quiet reading or study area for homework and leisure reading with minimal distractions.
- Encourage your child to use the following reading strategies by modeling your own thoughts as you read or by asking your child questions:
- Before reading: read the title or headings, look at pictures, charts, or graphs, and think of questions that you might answer as you read.
- During reading: relate the reading to your own experience, highlight key points, outline the main ideas, and restate details in your own words.
- After reading: review any highlighted text, take notes, determine how the information is related to prior knowledge.
- Ask the following questions throughout the process: What do I see/picture? What might happen next? How is this like my life? What’s going through my mind? What do I wonder about? What’s happened so far?
More on Fostering Language, Reading, and Writing Improvement at Home
- Read 10 Things Parents Need to Know to Help a Struggling Reader on the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity website
- Read ADDitude Magazine's article on strengthening reading comprehension, Reading to Remember