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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

Comments from readers

"Please stop promoting the five finger rule. It doesn't work for every child. My child makes fun of it and now has resorted to lying to the school librarian so she can read the books she wants. If kids can read what they want to, they will want to read more! "
"how many bags you packed just take em back tell me that. theres gonna be one less lonely girl. how many i told yas and start overs and shoulders have you cried on before"
"A way to reach your child is to find a balance of reading books based on their interests and reading a new topic to them. Either way you will create an experience through reading that will last you a lifetime. A great site I use for helping me choose books is "
"This is very helpful. As my daughter (2nd Grade) started to read, I stopped reading to her but I will resume reading. We're working on building her vocabulary and fluency when she reads. I'm also including as a visual aid. "
"Readings are the most comprehensive experience that will maintain children's ability to explore their common knowledges."
"I love reading with my boys and I want them to love reading since this wasn't a strong suite for me as a kid. My oldest son is going into the first grade this upcoming year and my husband and I have both tried to sit with him and have him read books aloud to us. He gets very frustrated when he can't read a word and then refuses to sound out the word. He'll even get angry when we break down the word letter by letter & ask him to identify the letter sound. He has been learning sight words in school & we've worked w/ him this summer on remembering them. But, some of those words are the ones he misses when he's reading. What can we do differently to help him want to read more & enjoy reading? Sincerely, Kellen Schlicht"
"Thanks for some great ideas. My son struggles with reading comprehension. "
"I agree with taking turn while reading, I have put it to the test with my kindergardener and she enjoys it throughly."
"I love these articles! My son and I read together a lot. Great schools guidance has been very helpful and insightful in the learning process!"
" Your tips are great .thank you for your ideas. I will try them. I would like to know if there is also a website that can help me in choosing a preschool for my son. "
"Thank you for this super information on how to read with your child is a very good tips, please keek it up. "
"I do not have children of my own. (She's on the way)I am now taking care of my 8 year old neice, Leah, after school and have been helping her with her homework. One of the requirements is for her to read 20 mins. every night. However, I did not know what level she was at or how to tell if a book was her reading level if it did not specifically say so on the book. Thank you for your site. It has helped me to determine what her level is just by listening to her read. The 5 finger rule is a great method for me. This site also confirmed that the way I help her read new words is the right way. Thanks again!"
"Thanks for the resources! They will come in handy now and in the years to come... I have been reading to my granddaughter since she was an infant, and everyone has always been amazed at her incredible vocabulary and precocious gift of gab! She will turn 4 in two months; she already loves books and is excited about learning how to read them."
"I think this is great I read to my girls we have good times together . I know many moms in my town that can not read it is very heart breaking to see a mom that cant read to there child I help in my girls classes you can see the childern with help from home and the ones that get no help."
"This is great! I have been looking for something to help my soon to be 2nd grader with his reading. Your articles are enlightening and most informative."
"Thank you so much for this informative article. It gives me direction with my not so great second grade reader."
"Thank you for all those great tips about reading! "
"I noticed that when there were less pictures and more story my son enjoyed having some props around to clutch like a baseball glove when the story was about baseball or a stuffed animal when the story was about animals.."
"thank you, I have two children, one who has been recently diagnosis with ADHD. But for years has had problems in school and at home. I was able to get information on schools, different programs and how I could help him at home. Because of this information I was able to ask & push for resources for my son. Thank you. "
"Thanks for the valuable information. As a parent, you always wonder how well your child is doing. This information gives you a way to measure. I printed out the reading lists and I will definitely check out these books with my daughter. Keep the information coming."
"My granddaughter, a rising second-grader, was in the easiest reading group in her class. I printed the Accelerated Reading List, starting at 1.6 (per her teacher's recommendation) and checked out books increasingly more difficult all summer. She is reading so much better and with expression. We set the timer for 30 minutes with a page goal in mind, but she usually completes that within 20 minutes. I also pay her a penny a page for her hard work so she is filling her piggy band with her earnings. She works hard for those 32 or so cents. Most importantly, she is improving in her skills. "
"Hi! As a teacher, I'm always looking for sites that will help with reading or just give me info about books that kids will like. Thanks!"