Creating Confident Readers: A Guide to Reading at Home from Toddler to Pre-teen 

It is known that reading with your child even as a tiny baby helps them grow accustomed to the patterns of speech and language, expands their vocabulary, and develops their understanding of words. As your child begins school, the home continues to be an important environment for impacting their relationship with reading. Since you are the most influential educator in your child’s life, you have the power to build your child’s reading confidence and see their enjoyment flourish. 

Here are some tips for how to support your child’s reading journey at home from toddlerhood through to the pre-teen years.  

Pre-Readers: 2-4 years old 

Re-read favorite books: Young children often enjoy reading the same books over and over, which allows them to get their first taste of independent reading. Encourage your child to fill in omitted words when reading their favorite books together and praise them for “reading on their own”!  

Emphasize repeated words and phrases: Books geared towards toddlers often include a lot of repetition. Draw attention to these repeated words each time you read them so that your child can start to build a repertoire of memorized sight words they can then apply to other books.  

Teach letter sounds: Before our children can decode words, they need to know the sound that each letter makes. Use lower case letters and play games that involve the letter sounds. You can even make up gestures to help your child remember each sound, like “ssss” with a slithering hand motion or “mmm” while rubbing your tummy. Video like this one can also be helpful for reiterating these sounds.

Emerging Readers: 5-8 years old 

Practice blending sounds: Once your child knows the letter sounds, they are ready to start blending these sounds together to read words! When reading to your child, pause at simple consonant vowel consonant (CVC) words, like “sat”, “pet”, and “hot”, and help your child practice decoding them. 

Match their level: To avoid frustration and ensure understanding, help your child find a “just right” book they can practice reading on their own. For a short decodable book, which means one that is primarily made-up of words that your child can “sound out”, the book is a good fit if your child can read it with only about 5 mistakes.  

Be an engaged audience: Once your child can start reading themselves, it is still essential that they practice reading aloud to you as much as possible. While they read, ask them questions such as “What do you think will happen next?”, “How do you think the character is feeling? or “What was your favorite part of the book?”. 

Developing Readers: 9-12 years old 

Match their interests: It often isn’t easy to keep your child interested in reading, especially when they reach the pre-teen years. Help them to find reading material they are interested in, whether that is fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, or magazines.  Reading is reading! 

Try audiobooks: Listening to books has many benefits comparable to reading but can sometimes be less daunting for resistant readers. Not only does listening to a book exercise your child’s working-memory and increase their comprehension, but it can also allow them to access interesting stories they may not yet be able to independently access through a paperback. 

Make it routine: Dedicating a specific time for reading every day, especially if it involves everyone in the family, sets a predictable routine for your child and models the act of reading for enjoyment without distraction. Give your child a choice of how they want to spend this time reading, whether it be a book, magazine, audiobook, non-fiction article, or a recipe! 

Ultimately, it is essential to maintain a positive association with reading in the home as much as possible. The more enjoyable experiences your child has surrounding reading, the more confidence they will build; and, the more confidence they build, the more their love for reading will grow. Take it one page at a time, and the success is bound to happen. 

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