How Can Parents Support Reading at Home?

We know parents can help their children become a successful reader by providing a home where:

  • parents talk with children as much as possible;
  • there are lots of things to read;
  • children see their parents read;
  • parents read to their children;
  • parents provide a time and place for children to read every day.

How Can a Parent Know if Their Child is Struggling with Reading?

Here are some important indicators that your child is on track with language development and reading. If you don’t see your child reaching these milestones, it may mean your child needs some assistance.

Children Ages: 0-3:

  • Imitate sounds and rhythms
  • Understand the meanings of simple words
  • Recognize some books by their covers
  • Pretend to read books and handle them correctly
  • Produce some scribbles that resemble writing

Children Ages 3-4:

  • Attempt to read and write
  • Recognize common signs and labels
  • Enjoy listening to stories
  • Are able to write some letters

Children Age 5:

  • Retell simple stories
  • Use descriptive language
  • Connect letters to sounds
  • Begin to write common words and phrases

Children Age 6:

  • Read and tell stories
  • Develop some reading strategies
  • Read and write on their own
  • Read a few things aloud
  • Decode unfamiliar words
  • Increase sight word knowledge
  • Use some punctuation

Of course these are all general guidelines. Some children learn very early and others learn later. Children who learn to read at a very young age don’t necessarily go on to be stronger readers than their peers, and children who learn later don’t necessarily go on to be weak readers. However, if your child is older and still isn’t reading, you should probably dig deeper.

What Can a Parent Do to Help a Struggling Reader?

Step 1: Make Sure Your Child Feels Safe

Struggling with reading is very frustrating and can feel embarrassing. Be sure to let your child know that he/she is loved, accepted and supported. Reading struggles do not mean a lack of intelligence. Everyone struggles with something, and those with reading struggles have strengths and talents outside of reading. Sometimes a person struggles with reading because of differences in how the brain is wired. Other times, a person may not be receiving the right instruction. Whatever the reason, tell your child that this will get better and you are going to help.

Step 2: Find the Right Intervention

Talk to your child’s teacher to see what can be done. Are there interventions available at school? Be sure that what is available aligns with the best practices outlined here. If you can’t get what you need through the school, find a program you can use at home. Again, keep research-based best practices in mind when selecting a program.

Step 3: Find the Right Reading Material

Go to a library, bookstore or online reading source. Pick out a few items that are very interesting to your child. If a book is not interesting to your child, it is not the right book. Have your child read a few paragraphs aloud to you. If your child misses more than 3–5 words (other than names) within each paragraph, the text is likely too difficult.

Step 4: Find the Time and Space for Reading

A struggling reader must work about three times as hard as a non-struggling reader to read something. Because of this, it is best to start with very short chunks of reading time. Reading should be done for no longer than 10–15 minutes at a time, with a maximum of 30–40 minutes per day. Reading more increases frustration and makes things worse.

Determine when you can make these short chunks of time part of your daily routine. Then be sure you provide a place for your child to read that is well lit and free of distractions. It can be very helpful if everyone in the house reads at the same time to highlight the importance of reading for your entire family.

Step 5: Provide Additional Support by Learning and Explaining the Reading Process to Your Child

One of our sponsors, Reading Horizons, provides 30 days of free access to an online training program for parents. By learning these simple strategies at home, you can assist your child to become better at decoding words. This will increase confidence and reduce frustration. You can sign up for free 30-day access by clicking here.