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3 Simple Steps to Improve Your Child's Literacy Skills

Literacy can be tough. After all you need to teach your child how to recognize and sound out letters, decode words, and derive meaning from the text. All while somehow keeping it engaging and fun so that they don't hate reading. The sad truth is that there is a huge decline in reading enjoyment as kids age. It is estimated that 70% of 6-8 year olds drop in their love of reading, and then an additional 46% percent drop between ages 12-17. Oftentimes, children's interest and love of reading begin to diminish because they do not possess strong literacy skills, thus making reading a challenge. Furthermore, as children age, reading becomes more of a chore or education quota that they need to meet, rather than an enjoyable activity. In this article, we will discuss how to begin the journey to loving literacy as well as give you three actionable steps that you can take today to improve your child's literacy skills.

Step One: Improve Literacy Skills By Creating a Reading Routine

An AI generated image of a father reading to his son on the couch.
Children will excel at skills that they are most familiar with.

Just like with adults, children feel more comfortable and confident in their activities and surroundings when they are familiar. Having your child follow a reading routine will not only make them more confident with their literacy skills, but it also leads to a greater chance of them valuing those skills. Reading then becomes a part of your child's daily life and they grow to love and appreciate it. Additionally, it gives them daily practice with literacy. Here are some great ways you can incorporate literacy into your child's everyday routine.

Bedtime Stories

AI generated image of a mother reading a picture book to her daughter in bed
Bedtime stories are a great example of how you can read aloud to your child to improve their literacy skills.

One way to incorporate reading and literacy into your child's daily routine is to have a structured bedtime story time. This means, at some point during your bedtime routine with them you two enjoy reading a story together. After their teeth are brushed, their pajamas are on, and they are snuggled under the covers you get to read them a wonderful book. Having this expected and enjoyable constant exposure to literacy will not only help them practice their phonics skills but will also create a pleasant attitude and atmosphere around literacy.

Family Reading Time

An image of a father on a couch with his older daughter and two younger sons, all looking at a book together.
Reading together as a family helps children develop literacy skills more quickly.

Another great way to incorporate literacy into your child's daily life is to model it yourself. Schedule a time during your busy day where you all come together and read. A good example of when you could do this could be right after dinner. Oftentimes dinner is a time where families come together, so just extend that time for 30 minutes after dinner. Have everyone go into the living room, or den, or where ever you all like to gather and have everyone do intentional reading. It doesn't matter what kind of reading it is, maybe mom has a novel she's been reading and dad loves the newspaper. Maybe your child loves video- games so he flips through a video-game magazine and reads articles about new and upcoming games. Perhaps your daughter is only four years old and she just flips through her favorite picture books and sees if there are any words she recognizes. The point is to have that time together where you are all actively engaged in loving literacy. By you modeling this behavior you show your children how important and enjoyable it can be. Additionally, it then becomes something that your family bonds over and brings you closer together.

Morning Reading Break

An image of a little girl laying in bed looking at a picture book.
Finding ways to incorporate literacy into your child's daily routine will help them gain confidence in it.

Mornings can be hectic, but a way to incorporate something fun into them is to designate time for literacy. For those of you who homeschool, this may be easier as you can work this into your school schedule. Allot for some downtime in the morning where you child can kick back with a good book. If you take your child to school, you may need to get a bit more creative because you are on a time crunch. One way you can do this is with audio books. On your drive to school have an audio book of your child's favorite book playing in the car. Listening to books is still literacy, and it can help with auditory skills and recognizing words by sounds. Furthermore, you can see if there are any videos your child loves and have them watch with captions on the way to school. Literacy is not one way fits all, as long as your child is reading, getting exposure to language, and practicing their phonemic awareness they are building skills.

Weekend Book Club

AN AI illustration of a family having a book club in their living room by a roaring fire on a snowy evening.
Having a family book club is a great way to bring the family together , increase bonding and foundational literacy skills.

A fun idea for older children is to have a weekend book club. Allow your child to select a book for the family at their reading level. If you have multiple children have it on a rotation, one month one child picks, the next month another picks and so on. If you children are on slightly different reading levels, try to pick a reading level in the center of them. If your children are entirely different ages, say one is in 5th grade and one in Kindergarten, read at the 5th graders level and find ways to make the younger child involved. For example you can describe what is happening in the story and have them draw a picture, or have a print out of a page of the book and see if your child can find sight words on it.

As a family, set a certain amount of chapters that you want to read that week. Let's say three. Then every Saturday or Sunday, you select the day and time, you meet for book club. You discuss what you have read, make predictions, ask questions, have snacks and bond over books. It is a great way to bond with your children and have them practice literacy.

Step Two: Improve Literacy Skills By Reading Aloud to Your Child

An AI image of a father reading a bedtime story to his daughter.
Studies show that reading aloud to your child increases their communication, creativity, and critical thinking skills.

Did you know that children learn about language and how to speak long before they utter their first word? That's right, hearing words spoken aloud is the basis of your child's understanding to language and literacy. There are a plethora of benefits when it comes to reading aloud to your child. Some of these benefits include:

  • Increased critical thinking and academic performance

  • Increased concentration and memory

  • Increased creativity

  • Stronger communication skills

One of the easiest times to incorporate this into your routine is with the bedtime story. When your child is younger, be sure to read aloud to them every night before bed. If that is not an option for you, try to find points in the day where you can read aloud to them. Furthermore, don't make the mistake of thinking your child needs to be a certain age before you start reading to them. There have been multiple studies that have proven that reading to toddlers, and even infants, helps develop their language and literacy skills greatly.

Step Three: Improve Literacy Skills By Making It Engaging and Relatable

Image of a little girl in a reading tent with pillows looking at a picture book.
Children learn best when they are having fun and when it is relatable to their lives.

If there is one thing that is true about children, it is that they learn best when they are having fun and when it is relatable to them. Make learning literacy fun by engaging your child. Don't just read the words on the page and have them listen passively, get them involved. Ask they questions, have them make predictions, put them in the shoes of the character. Act out the book while you read it, make it something unique and fun.

Additionally, try to select books that are relevant to something your child could connect to. Whether it is a current life situation they are going through, something they are currently learning about, or maybe one of their favorite things. For example if your daughter is an avid cat lover than the story MISHA, by Stephanie Heath may be a great fit! It focuses on an animal that your child already likes, making it more enjoyable. Or if your child is learning about Christmas or another holiday, finding a book that centers around that holiday could be a nice connection.

Your child will be much more interested in their stories and in practicing literacy skills if it is on a topic they enjoy and if they can see its relevance in regards to their lives.

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