How Can I Improve My Child's Reading?

This advice for parents details what they can do to help preschoolers become readers, and help school-age children improve their reading skills.

Parents are more concerned about their child's progress in reading than in any other subject taught in school, and rightfully so.

In order for students to achieve in math, science, English, history, geography, and other subjects, reading skills must be developed to the point that most of them are automatic. Students cannot struggle with word recognition when they should be reading quickly for comprehension of a text.

Since reading is so important to success in school, parents can and should play a role in helping their children to become interested in reading and in encouraging their growth in reading skills.

What can parents do to help their preschoolers in the learning-to-read process?

Research shows that children learn about reading before they enter school. In fact, they learn in the best manner-through observation. Young children, for example, see people around them reading newspapers, books, maps, and signs.

Parents can do a lot to foster an understanding of print by talking with their preschoolers about signs in their environment and by letting their children know they enjoy reading themselves.

When reading to your preschooler, you should run your index finger under the line of print. This procedure is simple and helps children begin to notice words and that words have meaning. They also gain an awareness of the conventions of reading (e.g., one reads from left to right and from the top of the page to the bottom; sentences are made up of words; and some sentences extend beyond a single line of print).

What can I do for my school-age child who doesn't like to read?

In the early elementary years, from first through third grades, children continue learning how to read. It is a complex process, difficult for some and easy for others. Care must be taken during these early years not to overemphasize the learning-to-read process.

Reading for pleasure and information develops reading interests and offers children the opportunity to practice their reading skills in meaningful ways. Parents of elementary-age children should provide reading materials in the home that arouse curiosity or extend their child's natural interest in the world around them.

By encouraging and modeling leisure-time reading in the home, parents take the most important step in fostering their child's reading development.

How can reading research information be useful to me, as a parent?

Current research in reading reveals three important considerations for parents and teachers:

  • Children who read, and read widely, become better readers.
  • Reading and writing are complementary skills.
  • Parents are important to children both as role models and as supporters of their efforts.

What does research say about ways parents can help their children with reading?

The following suggestions have been beneficial to many parents:

  • Provide a good role model — read yourself and read often to your child.
  • Provide varied reading material — some for reading enjoyment and some with information about hobbies and interests.
  • Encourage activities that require reading — for example, cooking (reading a recipe), constructing a kite (reading directions), or identifying an interesting bird's nest or a shell collected at the beach (using a reference book).
  • Establish a reading time, even if it is only ten minutes a day.
  • Write notes to your school-age child; encourage written responses.
  • Ask your child to bring a library book home to read to a younger sibling.
  • Establish one evening a week for reading (instead of television viewing).
  • Encourage your child in all reading efforts.


Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

Loveday, E. and Simmons, K. (1988). "Reading At Home: Does It Matter What Parents Do?" Reading, 22 (2), 84-88. EJ 376 103.

Moore, S. A. and Moore, D.W. (1990). "Emergent Literacy: Children, Parents, and Teachers Together (Professional Resources)." Reading Teacher, 43 (4), 330-31. EJ 403 669.

Resh, C.A. and Wilson, M.J. (1990). "The Teacher-Parent Partnership: Helping Children Become Good Readers." Reading Horizons, 30 (2), 51-56. EJ 402 262.

Scott, J.A., et al. (1988). From Present to Future: Beyond "Becoming a Nation of Readers." Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Center for the Study of Reading. ED 302 823.

Teale, W.H. and Martinez, M.G. (1988). "Getting on the Right Road to Reading: Bringing Books and Young Children Together in the Classroom." Young Children, 44 (1), 10-15. EJ 380 635.

Excerpted from: Swanson, B. B. (2001). How Can I Improve My Child's Reading? Parent Brochure. ACCESS ERIC.


You are welcome to print copies for non-commercial use, or a limited number for educational purposes, as long as credit is given to Reading Rockets and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact the author or publisher listed.


I think the most important factor in raising kids who can read and write with ease, is by letting them see you do it first. Unfortunately I see that so many of us tend to use slang, and fail to use spell check. THIS ALL AFFECTS the way our kids learn.

My daughter is pretty average for a 6 year old kindergartner. I tried so hard to teach her to read at an early age, but she didn't have it. She started memorizing sight words only a year ago. Once I saw she was finally ready, I made sure we were working together to write notes, and make full sentences. It's been a breeze ever since. I think it's important to let your kids know that we are not perfect, and we make mistakes also. If there is a word you cannot spell, take the time to find a dictionary, and spell the words correctly. That's the only way that they will realize that reading and writing correctly is important.

i am a house wife and my husband is in the military. we just moved and we are on a waiting list for preschool. its a long wait, we got to wainwright in july and its now november and we are still waiting. since we left ft knox i have been useing work books to help my son keep up with his education. so far we have gone threw 13 work books going at his pase. my son can can read sucessfuly beginning 1 reading level books. he use some phonics to sound out words and some words he had momorized. he can also do wrighting and basic adding and subtraction. i work with him everyday out of these books, i have him read the directions, and do the problems. we also have used sight word flashcards and we read books together, never the same book. the library is the most helpful for veriody. i also found a sentience game that works like a puzzel. my son has a strong intrest in reading and can read quite well for a 4yr old. i hope i have given you some ideas.

My son is 10yrs doing english as home language.He is in grade 4 reading skills need to improve so that he can do better in his general sch work.How can I help bcos I v been trying mayb the effort is not enough or not correctly used.I m afraid he wil fail n they r left with September n December assessment

Hi my daughter is 7 and she is a average speller but when it comes to reading and sovling problems she end up getting it wrong. i have taught to her teacher and we have figure out that she doesnt comprehen what she is reading. How can i help her in to doing this

My son is 10 and reads first grade level I worked with him when he was one years old and we read everyday after that.He still can't read.

Only last week I read aloud to my daughter (a working mother of two) for nearly an hour. It was relaxing for her, fun for me and it allowed me to proof my latest children's chapter book with some input from her. I guess you never stop being a parent or a child.

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"You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend." — Paul Sweeney