Marilyn Lopes
Extension Specialist, Family Life Education
Cape Cod Cooperative Extension
University of Massachusetts

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As a parent, you are your child's first – and most important – teacher. Here are eight ways you can help your child become a better reader.

1. Read yourself. Your actions really do speak louder than your words. When your kids see you reading the newspaper or curling up with a book, they will want to follow your example.

2. Make sure your children read every day. Reading – like shooting baskets and playing the piano – is a skill. Like other skills, it gets better with practice. Researchers have found that children who spend at least 30 minutes a day reading for fun – whether they read books, newspapers, or magazines – develop the skills to be better readers at school.

3. Get the library habit. Make sure everyone in your family has a library card. Schedule regular trips to the library. While you are there, check out a book yourself!

4. Read aloud to the children.
 In *The Read Aloud Handbook*, Jim Trelease reports on research showing that this is the most important thing parents can do to help their children become better readers. Here are some tips from the book:

  • Start reading to your children when they are young. It is never too early to begin reading to your children, according to Trelease.
  • Don't stop reading to your children as they grow older. You will both enjoy the chance to do something together.
  • Set aside some time each day for reading aloud. Even 10 minutes a day can have a big impact. Bedtime is a natural reading aloud time. Other busy families read aloud at breakfast or just after dinner.
  • Read books you enjoy. Your kids will know if you are faking it.

5. Here is a way to use your newspaper to encourage reading: a scavenger hunt. Give your child a list of things to find in today's newspaper. Here are some ideas:

  • A map of the United States.
  • A picture of your child's favorite athlete.
  • The temperature in the city where a family member lives.
  • Three words that begin with “w”.
  • A movie that is playing at a nearby theater.

6. Give books as gifts. Then find a special place for your children to keep their own library.

7. Make reading a privilege.
 Say, “You can stay up 15 minutes later tonight if you read in bed.” Or you might say, “Because you helped with the dishes, I have time to read you an extra story.”

8. If you are not a good reader, you can still encourage your children.
 As your children learn to read, ask them to read to you. Talk about the books your children have read. Ask a friend or relative to read aloud to your children.

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