Reading skills begin at a very early age as children learn oral language. The amount of oral language that kids hear and use provides an important foundation for their development of reading skills. Children learn about objects, events, feelings and ideas as they experience their world. They learn the language skills and vocabulary to describe their observations and experiences, as well as to express feelings and ideas.
As a parent or caretaker, you play an important role as "first teacher." You can open new worlds for children and provide experiences that develop their readiness for reading and for school. Your support and assistance doesn't end once they start kindergarten. You will still be showing them the joy and importance of reading by providing an environment rich in print materials
and by reading to them and having them read to you as well. These activities should continue throughout their school years.
Most children will eventually learn how to read. Whether they become good readers and competent learners or not will depend in part on your help and encouragement.
Things You Can Do
- Encourage your children to learn from the world around them. Provide varied activities and experiences that will help them gain knowledge. Involve them in household chores, cooking, shopping, neighborhood walks and visits to the zoo or to the museum. These will give them important experiences and background knowledge.
- Talk to your children about their experiences and listen to their responses. Taking the time to discuss their experiences and answer their seemingly endless questions will pay off as you help build their knowledge and model ways of using oral language.
- Give them writing and coloring materials, paper, picture books, magazines and a comfortable place to read, write and draw.
- Read aloud to them on a regular basis. Reading to preschool children is especially important, but reading with older kids on a regular basis will help them as well.
- Talk with them about the things you read
whether it's a newspaper, book, magazine, recipe, or the directions for assembling their new bike.
- Tell them stories and have them relate their stories to you. Encourage them to use art materials as well as the household computer to illustrate or write stories that capture their interest.
- When children ask questions, help them find answers using a variety of sources. Help them relate the issue to their knowledge and experience. Encourage them to use references such as books, the Internet or knowledgeable people. Show them how to demonstrate or test possible answers.
- Help them look up definitions of interesting words in the dictionary or other reference books, and also online.
- Take your children to the library regularly and help them choose books they like.
- Carefully monitor their TV habits. Watch educational programs together and discuss them afterwards.
- Set aside regular times for individual and family reading, such as before bedtime or on weekends. Discuss what you and your children have read.
- When your children read aloud, give them time to correct their mistakes. Discuss strategies they can use if they get "stuck."
- Encourage them to read informational nonfiction books on various topics, as well as fictional stories.
- Ask them to read a favorite book, poem, or story into a tape recorder.
- Show interest in your children's school performance, and monitor the development of their reading skills. Set aside scheduled times for them to study their school or library materials at home. Visit their school and discuss their reading achievement with their teacher.