13 Ways to Sharpen Kids’ Reading Skills

New year or not, it’s always a good idea to make reading and literacy one of your family’s top priorities. Reading is an incredible way to introduce your children to new concepts, faraway places and the treasures of imaginative thinking. Even more importantly, the ability to excel academically is directly related to one’s literacy level. Reading even helps build new connections in the brain and strengthen the existing ones.

Not all kids are natural-born bookworms though. Or maybe you’ve got one kid who loves reading and another who would rather do anything else (even clean). Whatever the case, you can help any kid enjoy reading a little bit more with these tips.

Tips for Reading to Babies and Toddlers (0-2)

Did you know that babies who read frequently have higher IQs later in life? Baby storytime can go beyond bedtime snuggles. Foster a love of reading early on with these fun baby and toddler-friendly tips.

  • Storytime Fun: Most libraries have storytime specifically for infants and toddlers, and it’s an excellent way to get tots interested in books. It also helps them associate reading with social activity. See what your local library offers for kids 2 and under. (And for all those times you can’t make it to storytime on time, or the kids want to read a book while you make dinner, there’s Storyline Online, where you’ll find TONS of videos of famous actors reading children’s books.)
  • Make Transitions Matter: Sometimes it’s hard for little ones to understand what’s happening as we move from playing to eating, and eating to sleeping. Mark the transitions in your day with some special books. Keep small baskets of books in various places around the house so they’re always accessible at transition time, or any time!
  • Quick Questions: Encourage your curious littles ones to explore beyond pictures and written text by asking them simple questions like, “Where do you think Bear will go? Which friend is wearing a purple hat?”

Reading Tips for Preschoolers (3 – 5)

Kids typically adore books at this age, so take advantage of their natural interest in reading by committing to reading together daily. Some days it might be the last thing you (or your cranky kid) want to do, but sticking with it can help a child develop a longer attention span, better concentration skills and a sharper memory.

  • Out and About: Frequent trips to the library or bookstore can help prioritize books in the minds of young ones. Let your preschooler choose some of the books you check out and respect their interest in a variety of titles. Don’t forget to find out when an age-appropriate storytime is held at either of these two venues, or your local children’s museum.
  • Chart About It: Another great way to get little kids excited about reading is to use a sticker chart. Every time you read a book, let them add a sticker to the chart. When you get to 100 stickers, take your awesome reader out for a special treat!
  • Talk Sequences and Scenarios: Reading comprehension is not something we necessarily think about much with the 5 and under crew, but you can sow the seeds of understanding text early by getting kids engaged in simple activities. Sequencing cards combined with frequent chats about what will happen next in a story are a great way to get them thinking about various scenarios and outcomes.
  • Act It Out: If you have a hard time pulling your preschooler away from his or her favorite shows, slowly replace screen time with interactive storytelling involving their favorite characters. As a bonus, you’ll get to exercise your imagination while you dream up what adventures will come next.

Reading Tips for Grade Schoolers (6 – 10)

Elementary school sets the tone for a student’s entire educational career. And now that they’re older and their minds are expanding, there are even more ways you can encourage them to read both as a hobby and a valuable life skill.

  • Reading Responsibility: Once your child can read through picture books, give them the honor of reading the bedtime story to their younger sibling(s) a few nights a week. You can also pass on some of the responsibility of reading the grocery list or instructions to a new game, making it clear how valuable reading is in everyday life.
  • Think Outside the Book: Audiobooks may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to enhancing a kid’s understanding of literature, but they can be invaluable! Storytime podcasts and audiobook apps can introduce kids to a new series of chapter books, clever short stories written by up-and-coming authors and so much more. Get them engaged with an audiobook and watch their excitement when they spy the print version at the bookstore!
  • Read Out Loud: Once your reader gets the hang of enjoying books on their own, you might be tempted to get a little lax about reading to them. Keep in mind that reading out loud to older children is just as valuable. Your grade schooler will learn a broader vocabulary and expressive reading. As an added plus, you’ll be close by to answer any questions or share commentary about the book.

Reading Tips for Middle Schoolers (11 – 13)

Looking forward to high school and college, reading only becomes a bigger part of your child’s life. Sharpen your tweens word decoding and comprehension skills by trying some of these tricks.

  • Visual Learners: Even a reluctant reader can be convinced to pick up a highly visual and appealing graphic novel. Graphic novels are becoming increasingly popular for young students in elementary and middle school. Kids can dive into fairy tales, myths, science fiction or even non-fiction through the wonders of graphic novels.
  • Draw It Out: If your reader is artistic and has found a love of graphic novels, encourage him or her to draw a few frames of their own. You can provide prompts such as, “That was quite the cliffhanger! Can you draw what might happen when the story continues?” You could also ask, “What would this character look like in a different setting? Could you imagine him at our local mall? Or joining you for soccer practice?” Questions like these make your middle schooler consider the character’s personality and unique traits.
  • Vocab Challenges: A vital part of feeling comfortable reading more complex texts is having a broad vocabulary. Get your middle schooler motivated to learn new words by setting up a vocab challenge. You can choose certain words for him or her to learn each week. They earn a point for each word they can spell and define correctly. You decide how many points they need to be rewarded for their efforts. This may work best if you let them pick the reward, like a new video game or shopping trip.

Raising a reader is hard work, moms. Try not to be too discouraged if your child is falling behind in class or is too intimidated to be far ahead of the pack. Your instincts will help you choose the methods of encouragement that are just right for your learner.

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