Kids and Books

Kids and Books

9 Genius Ways To Help Kids Learn To Read (And Love It)

By Ellen Seidman of

Reading Goodnight Moon to your child for the 479th time can cause parental insanity, reveals a two-year study conducted at my home. My research also reveals that reading to my kids is bringing out their bookworm gene—going to the library is their idea of a good time. And then there’s the fact that bedtime reading is often the best bonding time we have all day.

As it turns out, some of ways I read to my children are expert-approved techniques to fast-forward kids’ reading skills. There’s a new study out and other proven research on reading strategies that help children learn to do it and develop their language awareness and comprehension, too. Click away for the scoop on the study and for more ways to help kids get more out of reading time. Happily, you’re probably already doing most of them. (And if you’re being forced to read Goodnight Moon for the 479th too, sorry, can’t help you there.)

1. Talk about the words on the page as you read
Preschool kids whose teachers explained print concepts as they read to them had more advanced reading skills one and two years later than kids whose teachers didn’t make those references, says a Ohio State University study in the April 2012 issue of the journal Child Development. “Track print as you read—point to the words on the page as you read them,” says Shayne B. Piasta, Ph.D., coauthor of the study and assistant director of the Children’s Learning Collaborative. Get kids to pay attention to letters and words and they’ll do better at word recognition and spelling (and really impress Grandma).

2. Explain how reading flows
Mention to your child that we start at the beginning of the book and read to the back, and that we read from left to right and from top to bottom of the page. It's also helpful for reading skills, per the Ohio State University study, and perhaps the easiest thing you'll ever teach your kids!

3. Have deep discussions about letters
“Ask your child to find the letter K on the page or to find letters in their name, for example,” says Piasta. “Point out letters and name them and, for slightly older children, the sounds they make. By showing kids what a letter is and what a letter means, and what a word is and what a word means, we’re helping them crack the code of language and understand how to read.” 

4. Be a Suess-aholic
Include books and poems in your bedtime repertoire that have rhymes and alliteration (a series of words starting with the same initial sound, like "She sells seashells"). Talk about parts of words that sound the same and different. “Point out that ‘baby’ and ‘bear’ start with the same sound,” says Piasta, “and see if you and your child can think of other words that start with that sound.” 

5. Chat about new words
When you come across a new word, explain it referencing experiences your kid has had—as in, “Remember when we visited the zoo and saw the monkey take a poop? One kind of monkey is called a chimpanzee.”

6. Discuss the story as you read it
Encourage your kid to talk about the story and how it relates to his own life. Ask open-ended questions like “How many kisses would you like on your belly button?” or “In what ways is Good Night Moon the dippiest book known to mankind?” (OK maybe not that.) 

7. Get kids talking about what they're NOT reading
“Ask your child about the intangibles in the story—how someone might feel, what your child thinks might happen next, why they think a certain event occurred,” sugggests Piasta. “This helps develop language skills.” 

8. Read different kinds of books
“Many children find information books, such as factual books describing a particular animal or modes of transportation, interesting and engaging. These books can help children learn words that aren’t typically found in storybooks, and build knowledge that can help with comprehension.” And just think of how amazed your coworkers will be with your knowledge of semi-trailer trucks!

9. Act really, really silly
Kids get more into books when you act like a fool, shows additional research conducted in my home. I don’t just read books to the kids: I sing them, rap them, speak them in a bleating sheep voice. Get your significant other to do this and videotape it for everyone's perpetual amusement. 


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