How to Help a Child Learn to Read Better: Tips for Parents

Tips from a special educator that all parents can implement

things to do to help a child learn to read better

Need tips on how to help a child learn to read better?  As a special education teacher I’ve spent years working with kids who struggled with reading fluency, comprehension, and had anxiety about oral reading in class. Last week I talked with a friend about my favorite reading fluency techniques. Her child is a slow reader and has anxiety about reading out loud in front of a group.

She wanted my suggestions on how to help a child learn to read better. I decided to write about it, because summer is the best time to focus on it. Any parent can use these techniques to help a child learn to read better. You don’t need to have any specific training. Just remember to always have a positive attitude, keep your child motivated through praise, and don’t sweat the small stuff. If your child is lacking confidence, he or she will not have motivation to read. Build slowly. Keep positive. Praise the small stuff and watch your child slowly grow in confidence.

Just follow my 5 simple steps to know how to help a child learn to read better.

How to Help a Child Learn to Read Better in 5 Steps

1. Read at an Instructional Level

Picking books at an instructional reading level is simple. Choose a book. Ask your child to read about 100 words.

  • Are there 5 or fewer mistakes?
  • Is your child reading out loud with a natural tone? The pace does not have to be fast, but your child should not be struggling to read with fluency.
  • Can your child correctly answer at least 3 out of 4 questions about what was just read?

If you say yes to the above questions, then your book is at an instructional reading level.

If your child can read the passage of 100 words with no more than one error it’s too easy. Pick a more difficult book. You want books that will nudge and challenge your child.

2. Spend Time Focusing on Phonics Skills

Second step on how to help a child learn to read better: teach phonics. Research supports teaching phonemes to children. What are phonemes? Phonemes are the sounds letters and letter combinations make. Phoneme skills will greatly improve a child’s reading and spelling. The National Reading Panel claims there is solid evidence to back this. Phonics provide significant benefits for K-6 grade children. Phonics skills improve reading fluency and spelling.

On rare occasions I’ve had children who were unable to grasp phonemic awareness. It’s possible your child falls into this category, and has a learning disability, but it is quite rare. There are many resources available online these days that do a wonderful job of teaching phonemic awareness.

3. Pick Books that your Child Wants to Read

Motivation is key to success when you are working on how to help a child learn to read better. Let your child pick the books he or she wants to read. Spend some time at the library together sampling books off the shelves. Talk to your librarian. Do a spot check on whether the book is at an instructional level or not. If it’s too frustrating, talk to the librarian about simpler books at a lower level. Ask if the book is available with audio. But make sure you come home with at least one book at the instructional level to challenge and improve your child’s independent reading skills each week.

4. Practice Guided Oral Reading Daily

The National Reading Panel says children should practice guided oral reading daily. This develops reading fluency. In guided oral reading, your child is asked to read out loud to you. Your job is to correct errors and offer feedback. This will help your child learn to read new words, improve fluency and comprehension. You can also utilize choral reading, which is reading out loud together. Do 30 minutes daily. This is very beneficial in helping with reading fluency. Does your child have an iPad or tablet like a Kindle Fire? Read about Immersion Reading through

5. Offer a Reading Reward System to Keep Your Child Motivated

Summer’s long. Most libraries offer summer reading programs with fun incentives. In addition to library programs, have your own incentive. Talk with your child about what would motivate him or her. Mutually decide on something. Make a chart, choose a time every day to commit to reading. Then dig into the books together. By the end of the summer you will have a nice record of your hard work, and your child will be ready to start back in the fall.

Check out these Other Reading Resources:

Phonics Write-A-Mat
Autism & Reading Comprehension

Hot Dots Jr Phonics Fun

“Finger Pointer” Reading Strips

Reading Concepts Series (3 Workbooks)

Practical Practice Reading Cards

Parents should also consider the popular Hooked on Phonics program, which has various levels and kits available based on your child’s individual needs. Also consider the First Little Readers program if you are focused on pre-K skills with your child.

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4 Comments on How to Help a Child Learn to Read Better: Tips for Parents

  1. I’d love any suggestions you have on how to bring a child’s decoding and comprehension levels into greater alignment (or even just what materials to read of the huge number of items out there in the world). My daughter decodes well above grade level (finishing 4th grade and decoding at grade 8), but comprehension tests slightly below grade level independently and at grade level instructionally. We would love to work to bring the comprehension up (she gets bored with the items her teacher has her read). An additional complexity comes from not knowing how much is actually related to comprehension itself and how much is related to a difficulty letting the teacher know what she comprehends (she has autism, so prefers to talk to most people as little as possible). I am starting my MEd in Special Ed in the fall, but would love to work with her on these things this summer (which is before I’ve taken my class on teaching reading, unfortunately).

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