10 Ways Parents Can Support Reading at Home

Updated February 13, 2023 | Posted February 1, 2023
A young girl smiles as her father, also smiling, holds open a picture book for her to explore.

Learn­ing to read is a vital skill. A child’s lit­er­a­cy suc­cess or fail­ure can affect his or her life for decades. Research shows that com­pared to pro­fi­cient read­ers, stu­dents who don’t read pro­fi­cient­ly by third grade are four times more like­ly to leave high school with­out a diploma.

Under­stand­ably, schools pri­or­i­tize lit­er­a­cy among near­ly all oth­er skills.

Par­ents Play a Vital Part in Help­ing a Child Learn to Read

One of the most impor­tant roles that par­ents can play in their child’s edu­ca­tion is sup­port­ing and nur­tur­ing their child’s read­ing abil­i­ties and love of read­ing. As the poet and children’s author Emi­lie Buch­wald has said, Chil­dren are made read­ers on the laps of their parents.”

Down­load Casey’s Engag­ing Par­ents, Devel­op­ing Lead­ers Report

Despite decades of intense focus, many schools strug­gle to teach all stu­dents to read. In the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2022 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, researchers found that 81% of fourth-graders in low-income fam­i­lies scored below pro­fi­cient in read­ing. These stu­dents, the data show, were about one-and-a-half times more like­ly to fall short of read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy when com­pared to their more afflu­ent peers.

Both pover­ty and race exac­er­bate this prob­lem: For Black and Lati­no stu­dents, the com­bined effect of pover­ty and poor third-grade read­ing skills makes their high school dropout rate eight times greater than aver­age. Even pro­fi­cient third graders who have lived in pover­ty grad­u­ate from high school at about the same rate as sub­par read­ers who have nev­er been poor.

Par­ents can exert a pow­er­ful influ­ence on a child’s lit­er­a­cy devel­op­ment, read­ing abil­i­ties and atti­tudes around lit­er­a­cy — and this influ­ence starts at an ear­ly age, the research con­sis­tent­ly shows.

Yet, from 2015 to 2016, a large share of kids were still miss­ing out on reg­u­lar sto­ry time. Over 40% of all young chil­dren, ages 5 or under, had a fam­i­ly mem­ber read to them less than four days a week, accord­ing to researchers. Nar­row the view to Amer­i­can Indi­an, Lati­no and Asian and Pacif­ic Islander kids, and the share of chil­dren miss­ing out on reg­u­lar read­ing ses­sions jumps even high­er — to 50%.

Down­load Casey’s Parental Involve­ment in Edu­ca­tion Report

For many par­ents, help­ing their kids to learn to read can be intim­i­dat­ing. Young children’s lit­er­a­cy skills encom­pass many aspects, among them:

  • knowl­edge of the alphabet;
  • aware­ness of the sounds that let­ters make;
  • abil­i­ty to con­nect sounds with let­ters; and
  • vocab­u­lary.

Ear­ly lit­er­a­cy skills do not emerge spon­ta­neous­ly — they require time and prac­tice.

How can par­ents sup­port lit­er­a­cy devel­op­ment and help to set their child up for future achieve­ment? Luck­i­ly there are many proven ways for par­ents to sup­port read­ing at home.

Advice for Par­ents of Ear­ly or Emerg­ing Readers

Here are a few tips to help ear­ly readers:

  1. Read Every Day
  2. Find a time to read with your child every day. Even a brief dai­ly com­mit­ment can con­vey that read­ing is an impor­tant pri­or­i­ty for you.

  3. Make a Space for Reading
  4. Cre­ate a com­fort­able, con­sis­tent place in your home where you can read togeth­er, enjoy books and chat about them. You might even make it a place where food and drink are wel­come — these sig­nal that read­ing can be a social activity.

  5. Make Read­ing Silly
  6. Don’t be afraid to get sil­ly. Read­ing should be fun. Meet your child where he or she is, and don’t insist on seri­ous” or clas­sic” books. Sil­ly books, comics, ani­mé or oth­er art-dri­ven books are a good way to get many chil­dren inter­est­ed in read­ing. If pos­si­ble, act out or sing the words of sto­ries or find oth­er ways to enjoy books.

  7. Vis­it Your Local Library
  8. Plan trips to the library. Get­ting your child a library card can get them excit­ed about books. Don’t wor­ry about read­ing every book — library trips should be fun. At first, these vis­its may sim­ply con­sist of spend­ing time wan­der­ing the rows of books and meet­ing librarians.

  9. Librar­i­ans Are Resources
  10. Ask librar­i­ans which books are appro­pri­ate for your child and which books kids are excit­ed about.

  11. Seek Out Adaptations
  12. Read books that are being adapt­ed into movies, and com­pare one type of media to the other.

  13. Encour­age Writing
  14. Encour­age your child to write thank-you notes, let­ters, jour­nal entries and sto­ries about their dai­ly life and expe­ri­ences. If your child is uncom­fort­able writ­ing, sug­gest that he or she cre­ate a com­ic strip.

  15. Build Lit­er­a­cy With Oth­er Activities 
  16. Enjoy puz­zles, mazes, cross­words and oth­er games, which enable your child to build lit­er­a­cy skills while hav­ing fun.

  17. Part­ner With Teachers
  18. Work with teach­ers to under­stand their approach to lit­er­a­cy and ask how you can help at home. Find ways to extend school lit­er­a­cy lessons when you’re home or out with your child.

  19. Lead by Example
  20. Show your child that you love books, read­ing and writ­ing — and that you par­take in these activ­i­ties every day.

Casey’s Role in the Cam­paign for Grade-Lev­el Reading 

The Casey Foun­da­tion served as a found­ing mem­ber of the Cam­paign for Grade-Lev­­el Read­ing, a col­lab­o­ra­tive effort by more than 70 foun­da­tions and advo­ca­cy groups to move the nee­dle on ear­ly lit­er­a­cy. The ini­tia­tive calls for an inte­grat­ed approach, which start­s at birth and ensures chil­dren devel­op the social, emo­tion­al and aca­d­e­m­ic skills need­ed to read by third grade. This grade lev­el is con­sid­ered a piv­ot point in edu­ca­tion, where chil­dren shift from learn­ing to read and instead begin read­ing to learn.

More on Child Lit­er­a­cy and Parental Involvement

This post is related to:

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families