As a tutor and an educator in the school setting, I have often been asked by parents how they can help to boost their children’s reading skills. This question always excites me, as I truly find learning enjoyable, especially with young, early readers. As parents, we want to make sure our kids get what they need and the following activities are an easy way to incorporate fun learning into your days, often without the child even knowing.
Read Every Night to Your Child
This is something you hear from day one. Over the years, and especially when school starts, life gets busy. However, the simple act of including a fifteen-minute bedtime story into your nightly tuck-in routine means your child is getting at least an hour of reading per week. Let your child pick the story so they are invested in and they will look forward to the nightly ritual. It doesn’t even matter if it is the same book every night. Repetition of words, phrases, and sounds will help create confidence in early readers. Point out the words to your child and stress the different sounds each letter, or group of letters represent. After a few weeks, your child will be able to recognize, or even read them to you.
Create a Word Wall
Once your child can recognize simple sight words such as I, me, you, zoo, etc. put the words in a special place they can see every day. Label it their word wall and continue to add to it throughout the school year. The word wall grows quickly and they enjoy to see how many new words they know. If they know all then it may be easy to put the words, ball, fall, tall right up there soon as well. Having a space for their words is a way to showcase their growth and learning not only to their families but to themselves.
Label Their Room/House
Exposure to sounds, words and phrases is how children learn. A fun fifteen-minute activity is to have your child go around their room with a sticky note and write the word for the different items they see. Label them wall, door, toys, bed, bookshelf, etc. Talk about the sounds they see, the vowels or blends, and get them to repeat them to you. Have them make a list or draw a picture of other items that have these same sounds. Did they love this? Have them do another room. Children enjoy learning and reading becomes fun when they can associate and recognize more and more words.
Use the Local Library
The library is an amazing resource, not to mention a free afternoon activity. There are countless books for them to choose from, and also activities planned for children of all ages that help to promote reading adventure and fun. Let your child choose the books they want, and you can grab some you think will interest or challenge them. Give your child an opportunity to read (even if they just use the pictures) and then you read to them as well. Look at pictures, point to the words, enjoy the story, repeat. The more your child is exposed to books and reading, the more confident they become, and they will soon be telling you, “I am a reader.”
Walks and Journaling
Every day my family loves to go for walks. Whether it is a short walk around the neighborhood or a walk on the beach or in the woods. Use your walks as a way to look around you in the world and interact with your child and what they see. When you get back from your walk, have your child draw a picture of what they saw and write the word, words or sentences to go along with it. Use their picture as a learning tool. Did they write, tre instead of tree? Point out that tree is spelled with two e’s and have them add the letter e. Think about other words with similar spellings and draw or write those out as well.
Does your child love to sing? Songs are a great learning tool. I would use a large piece of paper to write out fun songs and point to the words as we sang along. “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” was a big hit with my son, but truthfully, you can do this with any type of song. Taylor Swift’s “Me” will have some small fans obsessed with writing words with M-E pretty quickly and recognizing that word anywhere they go.
Young children enjoy arts and crafts activities, so why not work that into your day? Over the years with my tutoring students, I have used many different art activities to practice writing and reading words with multiple mediums. My favorites with my son were when he was putting shaving cream onto a plate and then drawing the letters and telling me what sounds they made. We would even do ‘sh’ or ‘ch’ when he progressed beyond one letter sounds. This works with finger paint as well, and when your child has had enough, simply move onto creating an art masterpiece with the paints. As my son got older, we would use sidewalk chalk to create words, sometimes even playing hopscotch together as we hopped over and read the different sight words. Having a beach day? Draw fun words into the sand together and try to guess what you are drawing/writing.
Know your child. Use their strengths to create fun, meaningful learning opportunities. Learning is all around us, and our children are hungry for education. Make learning fun, and watch their confidence grow. Reading is repetition and exposure. My son learned to read at age four, mostly through activities like these as we traveled the country. He is now nine, and I have yet to give him a gift greater than the ability to read. Spend just a few minutes a day, and the payoff will be worth it.