Strategies for parents to support their children’s reading

  • Published on January 10, 2020

Strategies for parents to support their children’s reading

I was recently approached by some parents who had been informed by teachers that their children were not achieving the expected level in reading for the class and that, although they were only in year one, were not on target for success in NAPLAN eighteen months later.

The parents were anxious and wanted to know how they could support their children at home. Tutoring was out of the question due to distance and, while it is always best to tailor strategies to a child’s individual needs, there are some basics which are applicable to most.

My first recommendation to the parents was to reduce the pressure — on all of them, parents and children, and to be as relaxed as possible about their learning. I explained that learning doesn’t occur in a stressful situation and that parents need to support their children by working with and not against them.

4 easy ways for parents to support children’s interest in reading

parents reading to children, reading is a gift, the importance of reading

I consider these to be the main non-negotiables.

  1. Unrelated to anything school, read stories to your children every day. Make it part of the routine. Bedtime is often recommended, but it can be anytime. Let them choose the book. Discuss it with them: What do you think is going to happen? Why did he do that? I think that’s (funny, clever, wise…) what do you think? I didn’t expect that to happen, did you? Did you like the ending? How else could it end? You need to remember that your role is not one of testing; you are sharing ideas. You don’t need to restrict the reading to picture books. Read chapter books too – a chapter or two a night. Same deal. Discuss the book with the children and encourage them to think about the characters and events.
  2. Talk with your children — about your day, their day, their friends, things they like, what they want to do, their ideas. Discuss what you watch together on TV or the iPad, what they watch on her own. Documentaries are great to develop curiosity, knowledge and language. The larger the vocabulary, the easier reading becomes. Background knowledge is essential to reading.
  3. Do stuff together – visit interesting places, garden, do experiments, cook … whatever, do it together and talk about it. Encourage their interest in the world. Encourage their questions. Don’t always be the font of all knowledge. Take the opportunity to find out together. Ask them to suggest how you might find out e.g. experiment, look it up in a book or conduct an internet search.
  4. Play games. Board games are great for developing social skills as well as literacy and maths skills. They are also a great time for a family to talk and have fun together. Try to make some time each week when you turn off devices and spend time as a family doing something fun together. Even physical games help to develop literacy and maths skills e.g. cricket (counting runs) ten pin bowls (keeping track of the score even when it’s computerised – comparing, who’s winning etc).

Hopefully, most parents already engage in those activities with their children. If they do, the suggestions confirm they are on the right track. If not, they are a timely reminder of the importance of spending time together, conducting meaningful discussions and reading together.

Targeting reading with useful strategies

Many parents, however, like those who recently approached me, want more specific strategies they can implement.

While I have written on this topic previously, I thought a reminder of the variety of readilearn resources that are ideal for teachers to share with parents who are keen to support their children at home would be appropriate.

Previous posts include:

what do we do when we read - a boy reading

What do we do when we read?

Help your child read - some strategies

Help your child read — some strategies

The reading process

These first three resources give parents an idea of the reading process and provide suggestions for encouraging their children’s interest in books and reading as well as how to respond to them when they are reading.

Help your child with reading - a brochure of suggestions for parents

Help your child with reading is a brief overview of the reading process and provides suggestions for responding when listening to children read.

a series of ten newsletter for distribution to parents to provide them with information about helping their child with reading

Help your child read newsletters 1-10 provides similar but more detailed information.

a exercise demonstrating the reading process to teachers and parents showing the importance of prior knowledge

How we read — an exercise for teachers and parents gives parents an idea of what is involved in the process of reading and shows the importance of background knowledge, activating prior knowledge and context clues.

Reading, Writing and Maths

These next three free resources provide suggestions for fun activities that involve reading, writing and maths. Although they say ‘during the holidays’, they can be done at any time:

suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the holidays to prevent the summer slide

21 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the holidays

this resource provides parents with suggestions for keeping their children writing over the holidays to prevent the summer slide

Let the children write! 20 suggestions for parents

suggestions to maintain mathematically thinking over the holidays

25 ways to keep the children thinking mathematically during the holidays

And these ideas for STEM are great discussion starters.

Incorporate STEM learning into everyday activities — suggestions for parents

Along with these resources that are suitable for sharing with parents, there are many other resources that support your teaching of reading in the classroom. Many are available free, others for a small cost, or you can access all readilearn resources for a very low annual subscription.

readilearn teaching resources for the first three years of school

Remember to check out the complete readilearn collection of

over 380 teaching resources for the first three years of school
Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
Let readilearn lighten your workload.


Browse resources now

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    Excellent, Norah. My parents read to me every day (or almost every one), and I loved it! I cherish those memories, especially as an adult now that I realize the little time they had outside of work, errands, cooking, and more. Their efforts to spend time with me – then and now – are not lost on me!

    Thank you, Christie. What precious memories to have of your parents reading to you. I’m so pleased you appreciate their efforts. I bet they are happy knowing that too. 🙂

    Spot on Norah.. I read every day from the age of 4 and my two elder sisters who were ten years older were great about telling me stories and helping me read.. I had a library card at five years old and I have never gone a week however busy without reading a book. That early start was crucial to giving me that love of books and your strategies will be very helpful to parents.. xx

    Thank you so much for your affirmation of the strategies, Sally. How wonderful for you to have been encouraged by family from such a young age. I’m pleased you are still reaping the benefits now. Thank you for sharing.

    Great advice, Norah, especially coming from you. “Reduce the pressure.” I also like your word, “engage.” Thank you for sharing gems, strategies and more detailed information.

    Thanks so much for your support and your generous shares, Bette. Appreciated. 🙂

    You’re right, Robbie. Puzzles are excellent. Thanks for adding that, and for your generous shares.

    Good ideas. I turned my son’s lack of interest in reading by letting him read what he wanted. No, I’m fairly controlling so that was a big move for me! By high school he was reading Thucydides so I guess it worked.

    It worked, Jacqui. And congratulations for putting your son’s needs before your own need to be in control. It’s not always easy but it’s important, as your story shows.

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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