Encouraging Early Learners to Read and Write

Within every child is a young reader and writer waiting to emerge. Parents are most important in encouraging their young children to read and write. Here are some ways for parents to introduce reading skills as a part of everyday activities for preschoolers to sixth-graders. 

  1. Build literacy. Find out the established reading program being used at your child’s school and get involved. Make an appointment with the principal at your child’s school to discuss the following: a) the school’s standards for what students should know in reading and writing and the skills your child is expected to have by fourth grade, eighth grade and 12th grade in each subject. Join with other parents, teachers, and the principal to start a Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and begin to set standards. Volunteer, if you can, on school planning and decision-making committees. The key factor is to keep in touch  with the school as much as you can. Do not wait for the school to get in touch with you to tell you how your child is doing. Ask questions and expect answers.  
  2. Listen. Think about this: How often do you drive your car, listening to the radio or talking on your cell phone while your child is in the back seat watching a movie or playing a video game? The Children’s Literary Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire a love of reading and writing among children up to age 12, encourages parents to turn off the radio and put the cell phone down and talk with their child. Have conversations in the car, the doctor’s waiting room and at the dinner table. Talking not only strengthens your parent/child relationship, but it also exposes your child to using everyday language and builds her/his vocabulary. 
  3. Eliminate baby talk. Speak in complete sentences. Using complete sentences with more descriptions and details at home will improve your child’s understanding of literacy. Introduce new words in a way that your child understands their meaning, and be ready to define and explain any unfamiliar words. Visits to museums, the zoo and historical sites and exhibits are another way parents can introduce a more complex vocabulary. 
  4. Bring back the bedtime story. According to “Reach Out and Read,” a non-profit organization that promotes early literacy, less than 50 percent of American children under the age of 5 are read to daily by their parents. Did you know that taking five minutes a day to read your child a bedtime story builds memory skills and language development? And don’t limit yourself to fiction. Read a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction, and consider a subscription to a children’s magazine. 
  5. Visit the library. Why? Because it’s fun, educational and free. In addition to books, your local library offers crafts, story time and other activities to keep children interested in reading. 
  6. Make your own books. Encourage your child to be creative and help her/him write a simple book with their own story ideas. Use pictures from magazines, photo albums, or draw pictures to go with the story. 
  7. Learn from your environment. Turn a trip to the grocery story into a learning experience. Encourage your child to write the grocery list. Ask your child to read the names of the items while shopping and match the words on the list with the items on the shelf. This task can lead to your child learning to read labels for nutritional information and compare prices of items.   
  8. Teaching time. Ask your child to read aloud to you. Encourage your child to select books on their own that interest them. Give your child positive reinforcement and always express your pleasure at their attempts to read on their own.  

 About the Author:

Jacquinne Reynolds is a retired K-8 educator and administrator. She has a doctorate in Education with an emphasis in teacher leadership. She currently is Program Director of S.O.A.R., Education (Supporting Opportunities for Achievement through Reading Education, LLC) where she tutors scholars K-8 in reading literacy. She and her husband of 45 years, Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, have four children and live in Flint. 

Kudos Magazine Issue 4.1