Research shows that parents, caregivers, and family members can begin fostering an interest in reading, writing, and language as early as birth. It is acquired through time spent talking, telling stories, and singing. Surrounding a child in a language rich environment with lots of attention, interaction and lots of things to see and do in their space also is essential to literacy development.
These casual interactions form the base on which a child’s understanding of language grows.
Reading to a child is perhaps the greatest gift that parents and family members can give. Allowing the child to see, touch, and play with the book while you are reading creates interest and a true emotional connection between language and the feelings of being comforted and supported.
As they grow older, children need to read books that they can read the words, and comprehend and understand the meaning. Teachers call this a “just right” book, or a book that is at the child’s instructional level. A just right book at a child’s instructional level is a book that stretches the child just a bit, not so much as to make your child feel frustrated but enough to continue their growth as a reader. Your child would make an error on about one word out of twenty.
Choosing books at the right reading level will help your child improve her literacy skills and learn to enjoy reading. Books that are too challenging may discourage them from reading. Books that are too easy will not provide enough opportunity for practice and growth.
It may be second nature to feel like you should be picking your child’s books, but the fact remains that letting your child choose their own books is a skill that they should learn at young age. By allowing your child to choose their own books independent of your input, allows your child to learn the different reason we choose a book to read in the first place.
The first steps are to see what your child reading level is. This helps determine what books may be right for their age and reading ability.
- Look for books that match that level
Many children’s’ books list their reading level on the back or spine. This will help you pick the appropriate book for your child’s level.
- Do a five-fingers vocabulary check
Ask your child to hold up five fingers and read one page of a book. When she doesn’t know a word, she puts one finger down. If she puts all five fingers down, the book is too hard.
You can do this test with these easy simple steps:
- Choose a book you would like to read.
- Look at a page in the middle.
- Put one finger down for every word you can’t read or don’t understand. If you have five fingers down, you will need to try different reading levels.
- If you have fewer than five fingers down, the book is for your child.
Your child may want to read a book that is “too hard” based on this test. That is okay. Just make it a book that you read aloud to her, or that you read together (perhaps alternating pages or chapters; or she reads, but you sit alongside to answer questions or help her with challenging words). This will help your child climb to more advanced reading levels.
Do a quick comprehension check
Ask your child to pause after reading a few pages and tell you about what she just read. Make sure she really understands the book.
If your child has reached reading age, here are a few helpful tips to help him or her learn to choose books that will make them want to read more:
- When your child is ready to start reading, begin instilling the fact that we read for a purpose; whether it’s too learn something or if the purpose is simply for enjoyment.
- Have your child browse through the books either at the library or the bookstore. If this seems to be too overwhelming, then have them narrow down their choices by either a type of book (fiction or nonfiction) or by action, funny or other subject.
- Say “yes” as often as you can when your child selects a book that he or she is interested in. Rather than saying “no” try saying that a choice is a “not so great” selection
- If your child selects a book that is beyond his or her reading ability, solve the problem by reading the book out loud with your child. Let them read as much of the book as possible, you can jump in if there are difficult parts for your child to read.
- If your child has really enjoyed a particular book, remind him or her of the author name when they are selecting books the next time.