How Kids Become Readers

Just published in the Los Angeles Times August 18, 2019:

Some parents fear that their child may “fall behind” in learning to read. But there is no evidence that learning to read, or reaching a given reading level, must be done by a certain age to succeed in school.

It is true that students who have difficulties in reading at an early age often have problems later in their school years. But this is not because learning to read by 9 (or 19 or 90) is required to become a good reader later on.

Children can make rapid progress in reading under the right conditions. It’s never too late to become a good reader.

So instead of worrying about at what age your children learn to read, focus on getting them hooked on books. In fact, get them addicted to reading.

Once they fall in love with books (or magazines or comic books), they’ll want to read more all on their own. And doing a lot of reading is the key to progress.

How do you help your child become an avid reader? Here are a few tips to make that happen.

Start by reading to your children when they are young.

Reading aloud can be done from the time they’re infants. Even after your kids learn to read, continue reading to them. Older children also like to be read to. It motivates them to read more on their own.

Make sure kids have lots of books to choose from.

Take them to the public library to pick out their own books and encourage them to use the school library.

If they don’t like a book, put it aside and help them find another one.

Sometimes it takes a while to find books that really click with children. Once you do, however, your children will be on their way to becoming better readers for life.

Reading is its own reward, so there’s no need to bribe your child to read.

Kids with the right books will fall in love with reading. Give it time.

Jeff McQuillan is a Senior Research Associate at the Center for Educational Development.

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