Reading With Your Child: Tips and Suggestions

Ideally, children should read books that are just right for them. Too easy and the child is not being challenged or learning new reading skills. Too hard and the child becomes frustrated and wants to give up reading altogether.

But…it can be hard to find perfect level books and if you do they may not always interest your child. Many of the early reader books do not have the most engaging storylines, character development, or rich vocabulary.

It’s OK for kids to occasionally read books that are too easy for them. These books can build fluency and confidence. They’re great choices for independent reading if ‘just right’ books are not available.

It’s also OK for kids to look at books above their current level if they want to. They might only look at the pictures or need an adult to read it to them, but they should never be discouraged from a book that is “too hard.” Sometimes teachers limit students to only selecting books at their current level, but this is problematic as the kids that struggle with reading feel stuck with limited choices that may feel “baby-ish” to them. It is much better to let children select books that are of interest to them – even if they need a bit of help reading it!

Variety is definitely key! Ensure that children have a selection of both early readers at their level to read independently and a slightly higher level for instructional purposes and to challenge them. Provide them with both fiction and non-fiction. Include some great children’s literature to be read with families and as a starting point for conversations. Read for learning. Read for information. Read for pleasure. Read every day.

Here are some tips for making the most of your reading sessions:

1. Read TO Your Child

  • Track words with your finger as you read. Point out words that rhyme or start with the same letter. Point out the punctuation or when words are italicized for emphasis. Prompt them to chime in for repeated phrases that they can memorize.

2. Take TURNS Reading

  • Choose to alternate reading sentences or pages. Or, read the majority of it to your child and prompt them to read the parts or words that they are able to.
  • Read the book to your child first, and then invite them to read it to you.

3. TALK about the Book

Before reading a book for the first time take a few moments to flip through the pages and take a “picture walk.” Look at the pictures. What do you think this book is about? What might happen? Use caution when the book might have a surprise ending; only look ahead until the child discovers the problem of the story but try not to spoil the ending! Also point out both the author and the illustrator of the book. What is their job in making the book?

During reading, keep a conversation going. This is a great way to ensure that your child understands what is happening and is making connections. What do you think will happen next? I wonder why…? Why do you think the character did that? How does the character feel; how do you know? What would you do in this situation? That’s a new word; what do you think it means?

After reading, take some time to reflect on the book with your child. What was your favourite part? Can you retell the story with the important parts? What happened at the beginning, the middle, and the end? Does the book remind you of anything?

4. Provide HELP

Reading with children is a delicate balance of challenging them to work to figure out words and not allowing them to work too hard that they become frustrated and want to stop. Ideally, our goal is to not only teach reading but to instill a love of reading.

Stuck on a Word?

  • Allow your child a bit of time to try to read a tricky word before supplying the answer.
    • Encourage them to look at the whole word. Often, beginning readers will look at only the first letter and try to find a clue in the picture, ending with guessing the word. Instead, point out the first letter sound but then continue trying to blend on each successive sound.
      • What sound will the word start with?
      • I see a “th” in this word, do you remember what that says?
      • There is the vowel team “ai” in this word; remember that those sound work together.
      • What is the ending sound?
      • Let’s blend each sound together.
    • After a word is sounded out, children should re-read the sentence to see if it makes sense. This is when they can look to the picture to confirm their understanding.
  • Don’t allow your child to struggle on a word too long. Instead, supply the word and move on. Praise your child’s attempts!

Child Made a Mistake While Reading?

  • Give your child a moment to realize that they made a mistake. Praise them if they notice: “Good job realizing that didn’t sound right. Let’s try it again.”  
  • If they do not notice you might say something like, “Hmm…did that make sense?” or “That was really close, let’s look at this word again.”
  •  You do not need to point out every mistake. If the sentence still makes sense, just let it go. If too many mistakes are made the book may be too advanced and require an adult to do most of the work.

5. Read AGAIN and AGAIN…and AGAIN!

  • Being proficient at a book (even if it’s just purely memorized) gives young readers tremendous confidence.
  • Encourage your child to track the words with their finger as they read and eventually connections will be made between the print and the words, leading to true recognition of the words.
  • Re-reading favourite books also helps your child to become more fluent, read at an appropriate rate, and read with expression.

6. Have FUN!

  • Use expression and different voices for the characters.
  • Act out the story or draw new illustrations.
  • Invent a new ending for the story.
  • Read under the blankets with a flashlight.
  • Visit the library for new books.
  • Keep a reading log to visually see how many books you’ve read.
  • Make crafts inspired by the story.

Download a 2-page PDF summary of these tips here.