Fun ways to read with your child

You have a big influence on your child when you read together. Learn how to make the most of this special time.

By GreatSchools Staff

Experts in child literacy are unanimous in their belief that parents should read with their children. The power of the parent-child bond has a positive effect on a child's attitude toward reading and his ability to read. Try the suggestions below to help make reading with your child both a pleasure and a learning experience.

1. Choose the right book using the "five-finger rule." Have your child open the book to any page in the middle of the book and read that page. Each time she comes across a word she does not know, she should hold up a finger. If she gets to five fingers before she finishes reading the page, the book is too hard. If she doesn't hold up any fingers, the book is probably easy for your child and can be used to build reading fluency. If she holds up two or three fingers, the book is likely to be at a good level for her reading to grow.

2. Use sound strategies to tackle a new word.

  • Ask your child to sound out an unknown word. Look at the letters in a difficult word and have your child pronounce each sound, or phoneme. Then see if he can blend the sounds together to pronounce the word.
  • Help him memorize irregular words. Explain that words like where, hour, or sign are hard to sound out since they don't follow normal sound patterns. Point these words out when you're reading to help your child learn to recognize them on his own.
  • Use suffixes, prefixes, and root words. If your child knows the word day, guide him to define new words like yesterday or daily. Similarly, if he knows what pre- means, it's easy to learn new words like prepare or preschool.

3. Use the story to help your child learn.

  • Ask your child what word or idea would make sense in the plot of the story when she gets stuck on an unfamiliar word.
  • Encourage your child to look at illustrations, pictures, titles, or graphs to figure out the meaning of new words.

4. Give support and encouragement.

  • Challenge your child to figure out new words, but always supply the word before he becomes frustrated.
  • After your child has read a story, reread it aloud yourself so that he can enjoy it without interruption.

5. Be a good role model. Let your child see you reading, and share your excitement when you enjoy a great book of your own.

6. Make reading a priority. Whether it's 10 minutes every night before bed or an hour every Sunday morning, it helps to set aside a specific time for reading. This kind of special "together time" can go a long way toward getting your child interested in books.

7. Create the right atmosphere. Find a quiet comfortable place to listen to your child read. While you don't need to build a special reading nook, it helps to ensure that, even in a busy home, there's a quiet place for reading.

8. Make reading fun. Kids may not get excited about the idea of quiet time spent curled up on the couch. Why not make it fun by turning reading sessions into impromptu theater performances? Play around with funny voices to impersonate animals or unusual characters in stories. You'll get to release some tension, and your child will learn to think of reading as fun rather than work.

9. Keep reading aloud to your child. Don't stop reading aloud to your child once she learns to read by herself. When you read to her, you let your child enjoy books that are beyond her independent reading level and build her vocabulary by exposing her to new words. Reading aloud is also a chance for you to model reading smoothly and with expression.

10. Introduce new books. Each year there is one book that seems to steal the hearts and minds of all children. While it may seem like the only book your child wants to read, it's important to remember that there are millions of books that will suit your child's interests and capture his imagination. Use these resources to help your child find great books:

Scholastic Books Parent Resources
Random House Children's Books
The Children's Literature Web Guide