1. Read aloud. From the time they are infants, children respond to the sound of their parents’ voices. Make a ritual of reading to your kids before bedtime or after school. They’ll quickly recognize the adventures that exist inside books, and they’ll want to read themselves.
2. Point out letters and words that kids can recognize and identify. Start with the letters in your child’s own name, and build on those sounds. If your child’s name is Monica, ask her to think of other words that start with the “mmm” sound. During lunch, you can put items on the table such as milk, mustard or melon for her to name.
3. Read along with your child. If the two of you read in unison, your child will learn how to sound out more difficult words. Then take turns with each page – you read one, then she reads the nx Soon, she’ll be finishing the whole book on her own.
4. Give reading your undivided attention. When you sit down to read with your child – ideally for 15 to 30 minutes a day – focus on the book to show how important reading is. Your child will look forward to this time as a special part of the day.
5. Talk to your child while you read. By asking questions about the plot like “What do you think is going to happen?” or “Why did the character just do that?” you’ll engage your child in the story and foster his comprehension and enjoyment level.
6. Get your child her own library card. She’ll feel like a grown-up when she selects books to borrow. A weekly library trip turns reading into a treat.
7. Join a family book group. For older kids, a book group that includes both children and parents can be a reason to read. Ask each child to recommend a favorite book, and hold a weekly or monthly meeting to discuss the story. You can do this within your own family, or ask your local library to help you set up a community group.
8. Play word games. A game of “I Spy” can easily be turned into a word-learning activity. Start by saying, “I spy something that starts with the letter B.” Then let your child sound out the names of objects around you.
9. Name familiar items. Label big objects in your child’s room so that he’ll become familiar with seeing words written out and he learns to read the names of things like lamp, bed and rug.
10. Test his skills. Check your child’s reading readiness level at www.qetreadytoread.org, a site sponsored by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, where your child can take a free online test designed for 4-year-olds which will determine if your child’s pre-reading skills are weak, strong or somewhere in between. Plus, the site suggests activities and resources that can help improve your child’s skills.