How to Teach and Cultivate Your Child to Read at Home



As a philanthropist and activist for educational reform in South Africa, I cannot help but identify the problem that I am seeing in the educational sector. While we can attribute the large dropout rates in middle school and high school to today’s broken education system, much of the problems begin simply from home. So what can we do?  How can we save our kids? As a parent, it was imperative for me to press the importance and value of education on my children at an early age. This type of mentality allowed them to develop and grow into the successful individuals today. Many people can insinuate that it social economics plays a role. While they are not wrong, developing that mentality starts simply by setting the foundation and expectation for reading.

No matter where you go, reading plays an integral role in every job that you go into. Whether it is a simple entry-level job or a managerial financial position, reading well sets the divider for those who are successful and those who are not. Below I have set four various guidelines parents can utilize with their kids on a daily basis. This will begin them on their journey to learn and love reading. Following these guidelines will not just help your child read better, but inspire your child to read more.


1. Read Aloud to Your Child

Teaching your child to learn and love reading is an arduous process. The practice itself requires exposure and consistency on a daily, if not weekly, basis. Usually many parents begin this process during infancy, where children are read various short stories and fairytales to help them sleep at night. As they grow, begin picking various stories that you know your child would like. Try and even incorporate other interests your child has from their exposure from family, friends, or television.

While you read to them, try and be as enthusiastic as possible. This will encourage them to begin visualizing and internalizing the characters and concepts of the story. If possible, try and have your child follow along with you. Show them the strategy of reading left-to-right and up-to-down so that they know how to properly read. There will be a point in which they will want to read by themselves. If this happens, definitely include them in the process. Make sure that you are still able to read aloud so that your child can incorporate the tone and style in which you are reading. Remember, you are their example. The way they read the book will be the way you read it to them.


2. Ask Higher Order Thinking Questions

Asking questions while reading to your child will not only encourage stronger interaction with the text, but will also develop their reading comprehension skills. Sometimes, kids like to listen rather than internalize the text. Holding your child accountable for a text will provide them the necessary foundational reading skills to analytically break apart a text. Some questions to consider could be the following;

  • Who are the characters?
  • What are the characters problems?
  • What is the setting?
  • Provide a summary of what you just read

These questions can of course go into depth the stronger he or she gets with reading. For example, you can twist these questions by asking:

  • Who is our main character?
  • Describe our main character’s internal and external problems.
  • How has the setting impacted our character / conflict?


3. Identify Difficult Words

This is probably one of the most important concepts parents usually miss when teaching their children to read efficiently and effectively. Many times, your child will come across a world that they do not know. Do not see this as an obstacle; see this as an opportunity. Teach the child the word, how to pronounce it, its definition, and how to use it in a sentence. If possible, begin a word bank in which your child can refer to like a notebook or flashcards. The more exposure your child has to this word, the better you child will start using that word in the future Remember, it is all about exposing your child to new words. The goal is learning. So teach them!


4. Writing Their Thoughts

It would be to your biggest advantage if you had your child write down their thoughts about the story they have just read. Whether it is through the various higher order thinking questions or just their overall thoughts about the book, writing will set your child on the path for success. This gives them a chance to internalize the text that they have just read and comprehend the story on a deeper level. Make sure you quickly read their work to see if they are actually writing about the story. If there are any mistakes or misunderstandings, be sure to correct them.

Now while these four guidelines can be taxing after a long day of work, keep in mind that this is for your child. Investing in them now is investing in their future. There are other things that you can additionally do such as phonics/semantics drills, practicing site words, or classifying the genre between text, but that is stuff they usually learn in school Following these four are enough to get your child invested in reading and, of course, invested in their education.