What Does The Research Say?
We know parents are a child’s very first and most important teacher. The role parents play in the development of children as successful readers is crucial. Children who have involved parents score better on standardized tests, have better school attendance, and demonstrate stronger thinking skills (Tompkins, 2015). As a school system, we often assume that parents know exactly what they need to do to support their child’s literacy development and do not always provide parents with the support to raise readers. We know parents will become more successful in raising readers when schools offer specific suggestions and clear directions to parents.
This is why reading with children should start at a very young age. Even infants respond to a warm lap and the sound of their parent's voice as it reads a story to them! Reading should become a daily routine. Choose a time and a place that works for your family and get started! It is never too late. Also, remember that every time you pick up a book, a newspaper or a magazine, you are modelling the importance and value of reading (Bright, McMullin, & Platt, 1998).
In addition to reading books with your child, there are many other ways to support and encourage literacy development in young children. Pointing out signs or environmental print in the community demonstrates the power and importance of literacy skills (Bright, Tomkins, Winsor, 2015). At a very early age, children learn the the "Golden Arches" mean ‘McDonald’s’. Raising a reader involves modelling
How Do I Know If I Am Raising A Reader?
When closely watched, children will demonstrate the skills of a reader, long before actually decoding words on a page! Children who have been read to on a daily (or almost daily) basis before coming to school will pick up books and choose to ‘read’. They will know to start at the front of the book and how to turn the pages to get to the end. They will know when a book is upside down. They will ‘read’ stories by looking at the pictures and making up their own stories to match because they know the pictures are an important part of the story. They may even recognize and actually read some of the words because they have been exposed to these words in print over and over again. That will be doing all of the things ‘good readers’ do (Bright, McMullin, & Platt, 1998).
- Read from day one. The youngest of children enjoy the comfort of reading with a parent!
- Make sure your home has lots of different reading materials. This can include books, newspapers, magazines, comic books, graphic novels.
- Share books every day. Read with your child every day, even after they have become an independent reader. Children continue to need models of fluent reading and it is a great way to connect with your child on a daily basis.
- Reread favourites. Children love to hear a favourite story over and over. Rereading stories provides opportunities to talk about vocabulary, characters, as well as allows for children to experience a story they can ‘read’ along with!
- Send positive messages about the joys of literacy. Share in your child’s excitement about the latest book in their favourite series . . . . even if it’s not yours! Share your interest and excitement about books and materials you are reading. Excitement is contagious!
- Visit the library early and often. Visits to the public library are easy and inexpensive. Libraries provide children with a wide range of material to choose from as well as a librarians knowledge about authors and illustrators.
- Talk, talk, talk. Children develop vocabulary, sentences structure and grammatical structures by talking! Provide young children with a play by play of what you are doing, always speak to your child using complete sentences, and take the time to explain new or unfamiliar vocabulary to children.
- Give your reader something to think and talk about. Support your child’s reading interests and choices. When children are excited and engaged in their reading, they will want to talk about what they are reading and share what they are learning.
- Know your stuff. You do not need to be a reading expert, but it is important to understand the basics of learning to read. Your child’s teacher is a great resource for offering support.
- Speak up if something doesn't feel right. You are often the very first to recognize an issue with your child. If you notice something that just doesn’t seem right, talk to your child’s teacher or family doctor. The earlier a child receives additional supports the more likely their issue will be remedied.
(readingrockets.org, WETA, US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, 2015)