Reading is an essential part of life, and better readers make better learners, no matter what they’re trying to learn. According to the American Library Association, “Individuals read to live life to its fullest, to earn a living, to understand what is going on in the world, and to benefit from the accumulated knowledge of civilization. Even the benefits of democracy and the capacity to govern ourselves successfully depend on reading. Thomas Jefferson believed that informed citizens are the best safeguard against tyranny. He believed that every citizen must know how to read, that it is the public’s responsibility to support the teaching of reading, and that children should be taught to read during the earliest years of schooling.”
However, simply teaching children how to string the letters together to form words and the words to form sentences does not instill in them the love of reading. Not only teachers, but parents, too, must rise to the task of engaging students in the continual practice of reading so that they become literate, fluent, and life-long participants in the process. There are a number of steps you can take to ensure that your child is engaged:
- Know how your child thinks about things, both concrete and abstract.
With young children, it’s virtually impossible to simply ask them what or how they’re thinking and expect a reasonable answer; the chances are they’re too young to even understand the question. One thing you can do, though, is to observe them in action. Watch them as they sleep, eat, and play. Take note of what interests them and engage them in those areas.
- Teach your child how to speak and listen.
Reading is a form of communication, one from writer to reader. It is important, therefore, that your child knows how to communicate effectively. Preschool teacher Erika Christakis wrote in “The Washington Post” that, “It’s easy to get worked up about when and what exactly our kids can decipher, but if we want our children to be able to crack the letter-sound code with ease; to make casual inferences; to synthesize new knowledge; and to make creative leaps across cognitive domains, we need to cultivate the art of conversation, and we need to give children meaningful things to talk about. The foundation of literacy is playful, exploratory and social experience.”
- Give your child books they will understand.
You have to make sure the stories you give your child are ones that are at their current literacy level. If you give them material beyond their comprehension, they may be able to read every word, but they won’t have understood anything. Without comprehension, reading is meaningless.
- Give your child material they are interested in.
If your child isn’t interested in the topic, they’re going to resist reading the book, or worse, they’re going to look at reading as a chore instead of as something pleasurable and fun. Christakis also observed that her young students are drawn to themes like smallness, scariness, personification of animals and objects, and real things that are small and flying such as insects. These are good places to start, but make sure your child is not the exception to the rule.
- Let your child’s mind wander on occasion.
Sometimes instead of reading, your child may simply stare off into space or look out the window. Don’t think of these moments as lost reading time; think of them as healthy “mind breaks.” Your child’s mind is wandering because it’s thinking, and a thinking child makes for a thoughtful reader.
 Cullinen, Bernice E. (November 2000). Independent Reading and School Achievement. Retrieved from: www.ala.org/aasl/slr
 Christakis, Erika (as cited in Walters, Beatrice). (June 17, 2016). Parent Herald. Retrieved from http://www.parentherald.com/articles/49787/20160617/teach-your-kid-how-to-read-not-what-to-read.htm