Want to encourage a love of reading in your child? Help your beginner reader develop strong reading habits for kids with these 9 strategies.
It’s magical, isn’t it?
Seeing kids piece letters and words together as they read from a book. But as much as they enjoy reading now, how do we make sure they continue to do so in the years ahead? After all, you see bleak stats about kids’ interest in reading on their own dwindle as early as fourth grade.
How do we take beginner readers and help them develop good reading habits?
How to build strong reading habits for kids
My biggest priority isn’t to turn my kids into the next whiz or be at the top of their class. Instead, I want to hone their love of reading. And I do that by building strong reading habits like these.
#1: Read 20 minutes a day.
Who has 20 minutes a day, much less five, to read book after book? It’s a matter of not doing something else so you have time to read. The easiest way to incorporate 20 minutes is to build it into your routine.
For us, that’s bedtime. All three kids know to snuggle and read after they dress in pajamas. They run on autopilot so they not only look forward to reading, they do it automatically. No nagging necessary. Twenty minutes is enough time to build strong reading habits in your child.
#2: Incorporate reading into family life.
You’ll be surprised how often you can include reading into your everyday, family life. Take the grocery store. Ask your child to read labels, or point to products and tell him what it says. Point out aisle numbers and signs. When walking around the block, show him the letters in stop signs and those painted on the street. Reading doesn’t only happen in books, but everywhere around us.
#3: Alternate reading pages
Encourage your child to read aloud by alternating reading pages with each other. He can read one page, then you read the next. Stick to books you know he can read well and with inflection. If he reads like a run-on sentence with no pauses or punctuation, then try a book with less lines for him to read.
Speaking of which…
#4: Choose appropriate books.
The right book can make a big difference! First, find age-appropriate books for your child. One way to gauge a book’s difficulty level is the Five-Finger Rule. Have your child read a page in a book. Count every word he struggles with.
If at the end of the page he stumbled on five or less, then the book is age-appropriate. Any more than that, and it’s too difficult.
Along with age-appropriateness, choose books that match his interests. From the moon to clouds to ladybugs, find books about those topics and read it with him. You’re creating a positive experience and introducing him to new ideas.
#5: Point to the words.
As you read a book, run your finger underneath the words you say out loud. He can better follow along and identify a few words. He’ll also hear your intonation and know when you pause or stop between sentences.
#6: Read the same books.
Kids enjoy reading the same books. Like any good story, they might need a few more reads to absorb the meaning and even learn new words. The best ones to read again and again? The books your child requests over and over.
#7: Look up a new word.
Once in a while, make it a game or assignment to look up a new word. As you read a story, find words you think your child might not know. Write it down and, after you read the book, have him:
- Write the definition (with your help).
- Find and write a similar word.
- Write the sentence from the book where you found it.
- Come up with and write a new sentence of his own using the word.
- Draw the scene with the word either from the book or from his own sentence.
I created a handy printable your child can use for this assignment. It’s yours free—just tell me where to send it:
#8: Ask your child questions about the book.
Encourage your child to comprehend and question the stories he reads through reading prompts. I suggest asking one or two for each book. You don’t have to do this with every book you read, but it’s a great exercise to try to make sure your child is engaged.
- What do you think this story is about?
- What do you think will happen next?
- Why did he do that?
- How does he feel?
- Who was the main character?
- What was the problem in the story?
- How did the characters figure it out?
- What did you learn from this book? (Great for non-fiction books.)
#9: Help your child with homework every night.
I’ve heard that parents should help their kids with homework all the way up to fourth grade. It’s easy to assume your child knows what to do, or that he’ll remember to complete his assignments.
Instead, be there to answer questions he may have about homework or its instructions. Or at least, check his work when he’s done.
Raising a lifelong reader starts with you. Help your child build strong habits by reading often and everywhere.
When you do, encourage active participation through reader prompts and alternating pages. Find age-appropriate books that hold his interests. And stay involved in his school work to guide him through what he’s learning.
These habits will make your child a better reader. And he’ll develop a love of reading that will stay with him into adulthood.
Get more tips about helping your child read:
- Small Habits, Big Results: 8 Long Term Benefits of Reading to Your Child
- Instill a Love of Reading in Your Child
- 8 Children’s Books about Writing
- How to Keep Your Child Learning in the Summer
- What Every Kindergartener Should Know by the End of the Year
Tell me in the comments: What is your best tip for building strong reading habits in your child?