13 tips to help your beginning reader master the basics

Beginning readers need more than a few phonics lessons to learn to read. In addition to reading aloud every day and surrounding your child with books, here are 13 things you can do to help your beginning reader master the basics:

  1. Read poetry and word pattern books. The same books you read to your preschooler are good choices now. Books with repetition, rhymes, and patterns such as One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss are always hits, as are books that repeat the same words and that stress word similarities with rhymes and patterns such as Bill Martin Jr.’s and Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? 

  2. Get to know the librarian. Go to the library as often as you can or as often as your child wants to go. Encourage your child to get to know the librarian so she can help pick out interesting books or books that relate to your child’s interests.
  3. Talk about pictures. New readers use pictures as clues to help understand a story. Ask your child questions about the pictures and how they relate to the words on each page.
  4. Model good behavior. Your child wants to be just like you, so read around him whenever you can. Don’t wait until after bedtime to dive into your novel. When you’re reading mail, shopping lists, notes, or catalogs, share what you’re reading with your child.
  5. Let your child pick out books. Don’t worry if your child isn’t interested in the classics now. The goal is to make reading fun and to get your child turning the pages – reading a comic book or a book about Barbie is okay.
  6. Read aloud with expression. You’ll not only make reading more fun but also teach your child about punctuation, sentence structure, and the flow of a story. Pick out books such as Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and just get silly. Make animal noises. Toot and make chug-chug sounds when you read The Little Engine That Could. Be loud and soft and everything in between. Sing part of the book if you’re in the mood. Ask your child to do the same when reading books back to you.
  7. Point to the words as you read aloud. New readers are learning the very basics: That print runs left to right, that words represent our spoken language. Emphasize all of these ideas by following the words you read with your finger.

  8. Find books that relate to your child’s interests. Show your child that reading can provide information about anything: Dinosaurs, cars, fairy godmothers, movie stars and rock stars, magic tricks, etc. Help your child find exciting books. If the book seems too difficult, read it to your child.

  9. Write simple notes to your child. Your note can have just three words: “I love you” or “Have fun today.” Use words your child has seen or words you’ve read in favorite books.
  10. Talk about a book as you read it. Help build comprehension skills by asking questions before hand: “What do you think this book is about?” Discuss the title, the cover, and the author. As you read the book, stop once in a while to talk about the story. “What do you think will happen next?” “Do you like the character?” “What do you think he should do?” When the book is over, recap the story and ask your child about it.
  11. Read everywhere you go. You’ll show your child that reading is an important part of everyday life. When you see a stop sign or other familiar sign, read it out loud: “S, T, O, P. That says stop!” Read store signs, menus, and street signs. Encouraging your child to “read” familiar signs will reinforce your child’s sense of mastering reading.
  12. Lighten up. Don’t make reading an assignment or require an hour of practice every night. Be aware of your child’s attention span, and make sure your child is engaged in the books you’re reading.
  13. Make reading fun. With lots of activities related to reading like having a reading picnic or throw a party with a book theme.

Maile Carpenter