As parents, we want to raise confident readers, but between commercials for teaching our babies to read and the large sections of flash cards and workbooks at the store, the whole prospect of how to accomplish it can be stressful.

But it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it may be easier than we think. Here are 10 workbook-free ways you can raise a more confident reader:

Read aloud to your kids. Reading to your kids is a wonderful way to lay the foundation for developing literacy skills. Younger kids can learn to pick up words through repetition. So while you may be tired of the same story over and over (and over) again, the kids are actually making some fantastic connections!

Meanwhile, when you read to older kids you expose them to more challenging words and give their imaginations a workout. Plus, who doesn’t love having a story read to them?

Have your kids read to you. Reading can be stressful when you have to do it in front of a class. Help your child build their confidence at home by reading to you, a sibling or even, and I know this sounds crazy, a pet. The idea here is that you want your child to practice in front of an audience of fans.

Have books around the house. You know the old saying, “practice makes perfect?” Well, if we want our kids to become confident readers, they’ll need practice with lots of reading material.

Plus, according to a 2010 study, having as few as 20 books in the home had a significant impact on whether or not children sought a higher education. The study found it to be even more significant than his or her parents’ level of education. Incredible!

Let your kids catch you reading. I know it may sound silly to let your kids catch you reading, but seeing you read for pleasure can have a big impact on how kids view reading. So don’t wait until after the kids go to bed to break into a book.

Give kids control. Let them pick out the stories. Ask them what they’d like to read and go for it, even if it’s a comic book. Comics are a great way to get kids practicing their reading.

Make it part of a daily habit. Pick a time every day to read to the kids. It can be at bedtime, before dinner, after dinner, at breakfast time or any other part of the day. Pick a time that will work best for your family. But also don’t stress when you need to skip a day. We all get busy from time to time.

Don’t be afraid to challenge them. 

I know I said give kids control over what they read, but a little nudge now and then is good for everyone. Next time you’re at the library or book store, choose a book for your child that is slightly above their level. You don’t want to frustrate them, so don’t make it too hard. But handing it over and telling them you know they’ll rock the challenge can be a nice confidence booster!

Bond over books. Share your favorite stories from when you were a kid. Read one of your child’s favorites and discuss it. Get lost in the story, root for the hero, boo the villain.

Jen reading to the kids

Avoid making reading time quiz time. It’s okay to occasionally ask questions, especially if it looks like you’ve lost them or they look confused about what they’re reading, but our goal at home is to reinforce the importance of reading for pleasure.

Limit screen time. I know this is one of those things easier said than done, but work as a family to reduce the amount of screen time kids have during the school week. Hold off putting a TV in their rooms for as long as you can and keep computers in a central part of the house. Not only will you see what types of media they’re consuming, it can help your child trade screen time for reading time.

As parents, we can’t control everything (it’s a lesson I’ve learned over and over again), but we can help shape things. By creating a home environment that celebrates the printed word, hopefully we can help the next generation grow into thoughtful, confident readers.

More Adventures in Learning

About Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper

Jennifer Cooper is the blogger behind Classic-Play.com, an online resource for creative families.  Her favorite past times include: dancing around her living room, watching the Pink Panther with her kids and daydreaming. She lives in Baltimore, MD with her husband, photographer Dave Cooper, and two children. 

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  • sandflea681

    what do you do about squirrels?

  • Zahara Zucha

    I am teaching my animal cut-outs how to read. I am teaching them how to read in English and in Spanish. Math is one of my favorite subjects. I also like reading. I also like phonics. I also like astronomy. My wolf cut-out is learning Spanish. I like Spanish. I am teaching my animal cut-outs how to read in English and in Chinese. My zebra cut-out is seven months old. My wolf cut-out is also seven months old. My coyote/Dalmatian cut-out is three days old. My wolf/Dalmatian cut-out is ten days old. My wolf/Dalmatian cut-out is learning Spanish. My panda cut-out is seven months old. She is learning Chinese. My wolf/Dalmatian cut-out will learn Chinese.

  • J. Evans

    I’m rather concerned about some of the content of this website. Articles in the News is not appropriate for children.

    • Doctor Who

      Regretfully they do not do news anymore. Let alone news that children can see.
      From 1971 to 1986, CBS did a segment called IN THE NEWS, which was aimed at giving short news stories to kids. It was done by CBS News reporter Christopher Glen, and he spoke to kids, not down at the kids. But that was the only network that ever tried to open the world up to kids, without showing all the bad stuff.

  • Hemi Ngaiterangi

    Hemi hasn’t read to his son for years, he’s too big for Gruffalo now.
    Minecraft has taken over. Blocks thud pages out.
    There’s no way back to nursery rhymes.
    In a house with three, Hemi counted the T.V’s, 1, 2, 3, 4, computers add two more.
    Bedtime stories disappeared long ago.
    Hemi needs to switch off the square boxes and open a page again,
    so thank you for thoughtful tips.

    • TN Lizzie

      If Hemi can write like that, there is no limit to the creative possibilities inside him! What happens if the electricity goes off? (I can loosen one fuse to make this happen here!) Light a candle, or buy a lantern (oil or battery…) – it’s amazing how different your son’s world will look. What shadows can you make? Can your shadow creature talk to his shadow? Can your shadow tell a story about when Hemi was small and the lights went off?

      I strongly suspect that Hemi and his son could find a story they both like: http://www.greathall.com/
      And Hemi might find encouragment here: http://www.vg247.com/2012/08/07/minecraft-why-i-stopped-playing-it-with-my-kids/

      Every day is another opportunity to make memories with your son! Go for it! :o)

      • Hemi Ngaiterangi

        ‘Look Da, I can type you tube without looking.’ Hemi’s son yelled for attention.
        Hemi turned the lights off and said, ‘Try now.’
        ‘But it’s dark and I can’t see.’ His son replied with scared traces. ‘Well close your eyes, what do you see now?’
        ‘Don’t be silly, it will be darker.’ Scared become confused.
        ‘It’s the same as typing you tube,’ Hemi explained.
        ‘You don’t see you only look without much thought.’
        Sometimes with our eyes closed we see more.
        It’s called using your IMAGINATION.