Despite advancements in technology and education, more and more children and adults are struggling with reading fluency across the globe. Fluency is often a neglected skill, but one that can have a massive impact on someone’s daily life, as well as their academic and professional development. That’s why teachers and educators are doing everything in their power to teach fluency in a consistent, explicit, direct manner, using all the resources and tools at their disposal, including the principles of the Science of Reading, assistive technology, and more.
But practicing reading and improving fluency doesn’t only happen in the classroom. Parents can help their children make progress at home without making it feel like a task or a stressful chore. Sometimes, children struggling with reading, with ADHD, dyslexia, or other learning disabilities can become anxious and frustrated, and the last thing they need is to feel that anxiety at home, as well.
Below we’ll go over some simple ways for parents to help children improve reading fluency at home, in a relaxed environment, and perhaps even instill a lifelong love of reading – even in a child who sees reading as a stressful activity.
1. Read aloud together
Reading aloud with your child is one of the best ways to improve fluency at home, and a good way to teach children that reading can be a relaxing, pleasant, cozy activity. Start reading to your child, maybe one of their favorite books, and encourage them to read along and try to follow. You can also alternate who reads and who listens, by having your child read one page, then you read the next, and so on.
Reading together helps a child understand cadence, rhythm, prosody, intuitively, by following your example. It can also help them pick up the meaning of the story, because they don’t have to focus and concentrate on reading the words the right way and putting syllables together. Having a reading companion who they can trust and who can encourage them or help them if they get stuck cand instill confidence and relieve some of the stress and anxiety associated with reading as a task.
2. Set a daily reading routine
Setting aside an hour or a couple of hours to read together every day can provide stability, structure, and discipline in your child’s life, and help them make progress. Making it fun and relaxing can build anticipation and make your child excited for reading time, and in turn they might start to realize that reading can be a highly pleasurable activity, and not just a frustrating experience. Set aside an hour before bedtime to read together, listen to audiobooks, re-read favorite stories, or any other reading-related activities. Make sure it’s a relaxing environment, where the child feels safe and relaxed and doesn’t get the sense that this is some kind of homework or task. Turn reading time into a relaxing activity, and allow your child to make mistakes or get stuck without stressing out. Instead, encourage them and help them when they need it, and show them that progress is possible.
3. Provide varied reading materials
Turning reading into a lifelong habit starts at home, so you want to set an example for your child. Have reading materials around the house, including your favorite books, novels, illustration books, coloring books, poetry books, magazines, art books, whatever you like. The important thing is to provide various reading materials to allow your child to experiment, be curious, read different types of materials, and keep practicing. The best way to instill a love of reading in your child is to lead by example; if your child has never seen you or anyone in the family read and enjoy reading, they won’t be tempted or curious to try it out either.
4. Practice sight words
Another effective way parents can help children improve reading fluency at home is to practice sight words using engaging methods that piques the interest of the child. You can create or buy flashcards with different sight words on them, and review them together regularly, making it a fun activity. Try to integrate sight words into daily activities, like grocery lists, labeling household items, treasure hunts at home, and so on, to make this activity fun and engaging.
Practice is key here, but so is keeping the process stress-free for your child, so try to think of different ways to incorporate these common sight words in a creative way. Perhaps leave notes for your kids when you leave for work, or draw items on a grocery list and go shopping together, encouraging your child to figure out the items on the list that you need to get.
5. Listen to audiobooks
Listening to an audiobook while also providing a physical copy of the same book can be a great way for a child to learn how a text should be read, and to help them better grasp the meaning of the story and the written text. You can also encourage your child to read along and try to mimic the narrator’s fluent reading, as this is a great way to improve both fluency and comprehension at the same time. The next step would be to encourage your child to read the book aloud on their own, and if they get stuck, they can check the audiobook for guidance. Teaching and learning by example is the most effective way of improving fluency, and it’s much better than the child struggling to figure it out on their own without support.
6. Give poetry a try
While poetry is definitely not for everyone, and many people prefer to read novels or different types of text, reading poetry together with your child can be an effective way of improving fluency, cadence, rhythm, and much more. Reading poetry can help a child read with cadence, thus reducing hesitation, it can enrich their vocabulary and unlock their imagination and creativity, it aids in the development of comprehension skills, and keeps reading sessions interesting and diversified. Another great thing is that poems tend to be shorter, easier to follow visually, so they remove a lot of the stress surrounding the act of reading for the child, because they don’t seem so overwhelming.
7. Practice timed reading
Another fun way to improve fluency at home and encourage your children to read more is to practice timed reading. Use a stopwatch and set a timer for a few minutes, and in this time, encourage your child to read as fluently as possible. You can also participate and make it a fun, challenging competition, but without making it stressful or anxiety inducing. Over time, as they make progress and start reading a bit faster, you can gradually add more minutes until your child can read fluently for a full half an hour or even longer.
These are just some of the ways in which parents can help children improve reading fluency at home, in a fun, engaging, and consistent way. The important thing to remember is that reading should be seen as a fun, relaxing, engaging activity, especially at home. Eliminating the stress and frustration around reading is a good way to instill a love of reading in your child, and help them be more confident in their reading skills at school. If your child continues to struggle with reading, don’t hesitate to reach out to Da Vinci Collaborative and schedule a consultation with one of our experts.