In other words, those who have strong reading skills are more self-assured when tackling challenging reading assignments. And those who truly enjoy reading - and are accustomed to losing themselves in a good book - are more apt to turn to reading during their leisure time.
So what can you do if your child is a reluctant reader? That's a particularly good question during the summer months, when homework isn't looming and your child has more time to build reading skills and discover new books. If building skills is a challenge, you can find some terrific tips in the booklet, "A Child Becomes a Reader," which has been developed especially for parents of children in kindergarten through third grade. Available at www.nifl.gov/partnershipforreading and by mail by calling 1-800-228-8813, the booklet offers easy-to-follow advice on how to strengthen reading skills at home. Here are some highlights for the very important early years:
For children in kindergarten and first grade:
Encourage children to be storytellers by asking your child to use his or her imagination to make up stories and tell them out loud. As the stories unfold, ask your child questions to expand his or her imaginative reach. Ask your son why the fuzzy dog he's describing in his story ran away from home and how far the little boy had to go to catch up to him. Pressing for details can make the storytelling more interesting. It can also help children understand that reading and storytelling work together to create a fun experience.
Focus your child's attention on the sounds of spoken language. Phonemic awareness - the ability to recognize the various sounds in spoken language - plays an important part in a child's ability to recognize written language, and it can be fun and easy to focus your child's attention on the various sounds in spoken language. Singing or saying nursery rhymes and songs, playing word games and reading stories and poems aloud can enhance these skills.
Read aloud with your children. There's a very good reason why you hear this again and again. It's a fine way to help children learn to read, and to show that reading can be a wonderful experience. For younger children, reading aloud also reinforces phonemic awareness of the sounds of letters and words and the sentences on the page. Younger children will also enjoy the process more if you add a little drama - using sound effects and showing you're excited about the story as it unfolds.
Build vocabulary, knowledge and comprehension at the same time. When you're reading with your child, take a break between pages or chapters to talk about the meaning of the book. Help your child make connections between what's happening in the book and in his or her own life. Encourage your son or daughter to ask you questions, and to explain what the story is about in his or her own words.
For children in second and third grade:
Encourage your child to write often. Many everyday tasks - such as writing letters and thank you notes to relatives and friends, compiling grocery lists and "things-to-do" notes - can help young readers articulate their thoughts and broaden their vocabulary.
Practice using new words. Encourage your son or daughter to make up sentences with new words, and to use the words in other situations. Show your children how to use the dictionary or thesaurus to check on the meanings of new words.
Make reading at home a better learning experience. If your child is a struggling reader who tends to read slowly and make mistakes, gently emphasize that it's a good idea to read a paragraph or a page a few times for more practice and to better understand the meaning. And listen carefully when your child reads aloud from books he or she has brought home from school. Be patient, and let your son or daughter know that reading skills are something to be proud of.
For children who already like to read:
If your child likes to read, the challenge is to find books and other resource materials that tap into his or her interests to create opportunities for learning and personal growth. The Internet is a good place to start. At the beginning of the summer, many local schools and school districts create summer reading lists and post them on their Web sites. These lists often correspond with books that may be assigned during the school year. The American Library Association and the Young Adult Library Services Association also offer a Web site featuring recommended books for young adults at www.ala.org/ala/yalsa.
When choosing books, it's a good idea to create a mix of "easy reads" that your child can enjoy without a great deal of effort in comprehension, and some more challenging books. These challenging books may be classics such as The Call of the Wild, Wuthering Heights, Treasure Island, Little Women, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea - all of which have dense and more complicated prose but are still entertaining. Reading and interpreting the historical contexts of these novels can build real intellectual muscle that carries over into other academic subjects, which should come in handy two months from now, when the new school year beckons with challenges and opportunities to come!