Family Life

The Importance of Early Reading

As adults, we don’t fully understand the difficulties of learning to read, as it is a skill we’ve mastered over the course of our lives. We sometimes don’t even know what to look for when our children are struggling. Do we sometimes forget to emphasize the importance of early reading in our children? How do we recognize the signs of struggling to read? What techniques can we use to help foster a love of reading? These are all questions we often don’t ask ourselves or questions we find we don’t have the answers for. While feeling lost or underprepared is scary, don’t fret! With expert opinions and the help of fellow parents, there’s hope.

Why is third grade such an important checkpoint? “While K-3rd students are learning to read, beyond third grade, they’re reading to learn. That is why on-level reading skills are so important in third grade,” says Carla Batrous, a kindergarten teacher at Broadmoor Elementary School. Knowing the basics of reading, like recognizing letters and understanding the sounds they make, should be mastered by the third grade. But what can we do if they’re not?

It’s time to learn to recognize the signs of struggling to read. If they’re still having difficulty with the sounds that the letters make when entering the third grade, they’ll have trouble reading on level. Some solutions to try are singing phonics songs available on YouTube and incorporating sight words that contain letters you typically don’t sound out like the “k” in knitting. Try “modeling” with your children. Read a sentence with them while running a finger under the words as they pronounce them. This will help you identify what letters and sounds they are having trouble with or don’t recognize. Also, practice blending sounds together and use games to your advantage. Games that enforce the recognition of letters, sounds, and writing will be a great help. Input from your child’s teacher and the scores on his or her Assigned Reading tests can also be great indicators of grappling with reading.

How do you get a disinterested child into reading? Start with his interests. Ask him questions about what subjects, people, and things he likes. A child who loves sports might be interested in sports-related books. Once you have a topic, keep in mind what level of book will be appropriate for him.

Tara Dearing, a Children Services Coordinator at East Baton Rouge Parish Library, suggests, “Generally, third-graders are comfortable with small chapter books, picture books for older readers, and some non-fiction. Some children just beginning third grade may need the extra confidence of an easier read before braving the small chapter books. Don’t shy away from audiobooks. Pairing audiobooks with their print counterparts can also be helpful for following along while reading. The most important part of helping is being patient and encouraging as they find their way.”

Be a good example! Oftentimes, children are interested in what interests their parents. If they see you reading and being enthusiastic about a book, they will want to mimic you. 

Help your child pick a book that’s on level for him but still interesting. Popular books for third graders include graphic novels, hybrid books that combine the elements of graphic novels and chapter books, and smaller chapter books with some illustrations. If your child is reading these with ease, don’t be afraid to give him books on a higher reading level.

Starting in kindergarten, my parents made books readily available and always spent time reading a chapter (or two!) of a book to me and my little brother after dinner. It helped us wind down before bedtime and kept us eager to hear what would happen next. Frequent weekend trips to the library helped keep our shelves stocked and the two of us reading, guided or independently.

To get your child reading, Dearing advises, “Create a library at home of your favorites and your child’s favorites. Visit your local library for help in choosing books that interest your child. They may not find it on the first try, but keep trying–it’s free!”

“Start early,” suggests Ashley Clark, Teen Programming Librarian at East Baton Rouge Parish Library. “I think bedtime reading was really key with my stepson, Henri. If you read for 20-30 minutes with them as part of their nightly routine, you’re also spending quality time with them, and it’s a big plus.”

Who knows who you might inspire with some initiative? “A while back, my nephew spent the night. When Henri asked for me to read to him before bed, my nephew was very, ‘I’m too old for that!’ But then he found us where we were reading and got really into it,” reminisces Clark.

Overall, there are plenty of ways to recognize reading difficulties, help resolve them, and get your child more excited about reading. With some time and encouragement, we parents can guide young readers in building their confidence and enthusiasm for reading. 

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