When it comes to education, the building block for all other subjects is literacy. Literacy skills have been shown not only to boost reading scores on tests, but also math scores. Without it, it’s hard to access grade-appropriate materials for any other subject. So how do you boost your child’s literacy skills? There’s a lot you can do at home, and it’s simpler (and cheaper) than you’d think.
Read to Your Child
Read to your child. Start when they’re a baby. If they’re already a full-fledged kid, don’t worry that you didn’t start at six months. Just get started now. Read aloud, tracing your finger under the words, which teaches pre-literacy skills. Ask questions like, “What do you think happens next?” This boosts predictive skills, allowing them to make connections between what they already know and the text in front of them. These are all things that teachers will look for while they’re in school. Reinforcing them at home has a dramatic impact. Studies show that parent involvement at home can boost scores from 46 points below the national average to 28 points above.
Once your child has built some literacy skills, implement guided reading time in your home. This is another tactic your child’s teacher will be using in school. They assign specific books to children based on their reading levels, instruct in small-groups of children on the same level, and then encourage independent reading. Ask your child’s teacher what their level is, and then check this chart to make sure you have books in your home readily available so they can build their skills. Let them read independently, but if they are struggling, sit down with them to help. Encourage them to sound out words. Use the pictures to help them think about what the word they’re struggling with might be. This is particularly helpful with nouns and verbs as they are most likely to be illustrated along with the text.
Making reading fun for kids is a good thing, and in today’s world, that means accessing it through technology. There are great programs out there, like Reading Eggs, that are engineered specifically to build literacy skills. Look for programs that are built by experienced educators, and have curriculum based on heavy research. These programs often cost a little bit of money up front, but end up being well worth the investment. Free games are great, but they aren’t always up to the same standards. Most kids enjoy playing them, so you can even use them as incentives. Think, “If you finish cleaning your room, you can play Reading Eggs for half an hour.” How great is it that you can use education as a motivator to get chores done?
The biggest component in your child’s success with reading is your involvement. You don’t have to be trained as a teacher to make this work. All you have to do is set aside a little bit of time each day. It’s a great habit that will pay off dividends in your child’s future.