Children Learn What They Live (or – if you read, you are more likely to raise readers)

Parents have no need to be helpless when trying to foster a love of reading. Many a time parents are completely at a loss when their children are struggling to read and they are continuously glued to their screens. In my case and particularly with my son, I needed to be that example. Many times he caught me out when I was glued to the phone.

Parents play a major role when it comes to fostering good reading habits that significantly improve reading. The first and most important way is to be a great role model by reducing screen time. You can start by suggesting reading as a free-time activity where everyone in the family reads a book. Free-time could be over the weekend or even during the week. In my case I eliminate TV and tablets during the week and we are left with one option – to read. If they have readers from school, listen to them read and if there are mistakes, have them read it again. Or read it to them, and then have them try to read it themselves. Studies show that this kind of repeated oral reading makes learners into better readers, even when it is done at home. It’s important to make reading a regular activity at home. My 5 top ways for parents to encourage reading are:

1. Read aloud. Children love to hear a parent read aloud. Allow your child to select a favorite story and don’t be surprised if you find yourself reading the same story over and over. Preschoolers, in particular, love to hear familiar stories. You may also want to select books or magazines about topics that you enjoy, such as a favorite sport or a new science discovery. Your own enthusiasm will help your child realize that reading is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Even after your child learns how to read, don’t stop reading aloud. The time you share together not only encourages reading development, it also creates an important bond.

2. Surround your children with reading material. Provoke a reading habit in your child by having a large array of interesting books and magazines at their reading level. Once in a while visit a library and attend children’s book fairs which expose children to all genres of books. If they are lucky, they may get to meet with a local author!

3. Encourage a wide variety of reading activities. Make reading an essential part of your children’s lives. Let them read menus, movie names, roadside signs, game guides, weather reports, and other practical everyday information. Always try to make sure your children have something to read in their spare time.

4. Show interest in your child’s reading. Your response or feedback has a strong effect on how hard they will try to become good readers. Always remember to give them genuine praise for their efforts.

5. Ask questions. When your child reads, get him/her to retell the story or information. If it’s a story, ask who it was about and what happened. If it’s an informational text, have your child explain what it was about and how it worked, or what its parts were. Reading is also about thinking about and remembering ideas and events. This skill will prepare them for subsequent success in more difficult texts.

Fatuma Abdullah is the author of the Akiki series of children’s books.

The Akiki books and dolls are available from

Children Learn What They Live (or – if you read, you are more likely to raise readers)

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