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How Can Parents Help Their Child Develop Reading Proficiency?

How Can Parents Help Their Child Develop Reading Proficiency?

Written by Dominique Ciccarelli

The first four years of schooling are a critical time for children to learn foundational skills in reading such as language skills and comprehension. More than ever before, reading skills are required in mathematics due to the amount of word problems. Developing strong reading skills early sets an important foundation for school success.

Although many children seem to be doing fine in school, research shows otherwise. According to the Nation’s Report Card from 2015, only 36 percent of fourth grade children are proficient readers. The other 64 percent are considered basic readers and are more likely to fall behind in other subjects such as Social Studies, Science, and Mathematics. As a result, reading proficiency by the end of third grade is one of the most important benchmarks in a child’s academic journey.

Parent involvement plays a vital role in helping children to achieve reading proficiency and fluency — the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Children benefit by understanding the fundamentals of reading as early as possible so they can begin learning from written language and feel confident at school. Instilling strong reading habits in children starting at a young age helps to keep the momentum.  

What exactly can parents do to help their child develop reading proficiency?

Read to Your Child

Reading aloud to your child is an easy way to foster reading enjoyment and develop vocabulary and language skills. It’s never too early to introduce book-reading and set the foundation for learning how to read. This exposure to written text will help your child further develop grammatical understanding and comprehension skills. After children learn to read, parents often expect children to read on their own and the opportunity is lost to develop proficiency. Not only does reading aloud help deepen your relationship with your child, but it also helps expose her to deeper concepts, a richer vocabulary, and a broadened worldview. According to a Scholastic study, many children wish that their parents continued to read to them through elementary school and said it would motivate them to read books on their own more frequently.  

Listen to Your Child Read

Children should read books aloud daily throughout elementary school. While building independent reading habits is important, fluency and comprehension are further developed through the process of reading aloud. In the beginning, parents can listen to their child “read” picture books to develop language skills and alphabet books to develop print awareness and letter sounds. The next step can be listening to your child read books with rhyming words and CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words. Parents read along silently and provide corrective feedback as needed for pronunciation. When she isn’t able to handle a given word, parents should step in and help her sound it out. Another method is parents reading aloud simultaneously with their child, which can help with voice inflection, pace, and pronunciation. Developing strength as a reader takes practice, persistence and hard work.

Enroll in a Reading Program

According to the National Institute of Literacy, parents who teach specific literacy skills to their children were found to be twice as effective as parents who listen to their child read and six times more effective than parents who read to their child. Reading to children and having children read to parents is strongly encouraged, but providing actual instruction in specific literacy-related skills is the best method for parents to help their child learn how to read.

Enrolling in a reading program sets an important foundation for short- and long- term school success. Reading programs—such as Kumon—enable parents to help their children learn how to read by providing individualized instruction and reading materials to do at home. Staying enrolled in a reading program that has a well-established curriculum like Kumon is a great way for your child to first learn how to read and then for your child to attain reading proficiency. 

Dominique Ciccarelli is the education spokesperson for Kumon North America. Find more reading tips and advice from Dominique Ciccarelli here.

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