Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers
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Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers

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Reading Rockets: Launching Young Readers
Parent Tips
Go to Parent Tips:   Pre-K   |   K   |   1st   |   2nd   |   3rd  
Roots of Reading Roots of Reading
Sounds and Symbols
Fluent Reading
Writing and Spelling
Reading for Meaning
Reading Rocks!
Empowering Parents
Becoming Bilingual
Reading and the Brain
A Chance to Read
Toddling Toward Reading

Parent Tips 3 - Fluent Reading

Give your child lots of opportunities to read aloud. Inspire your young reader to practice every day!

  • Don't leave home without it.
    Have your child bring along a book or magazine any time you'll have to spend time waiting, such as at a doctor's or dentist's office. Fit in reading every chance you get!

  • Once is not enough.
    Encourage your child to re-read favorite books and poems. With repeated readings, he or she should be able to read more quickly and accurately.

  • Pick books that are at the right level.
    Help your child pick reading materials that are not too difficult. The aim is to give your child lots of successful reading experiences. Sometimes, slow readers will choose overly difficult books to "save face" and then are unable to actually read them.

  • Dig deeper into the story.
    Ask your child about the story you've just read together. Try questions that require your child to draw conclusions. Say something like, "Why do you think Clifford did that?" A child's involvement in retelling a story or answering questions goes a long way toward developing his or her comprehension skills.

  • Take control of the television.
    Encourage reading as a free-time activity, and set limits on the amount of time your child spends watching television or playing video games. It's difficult for reading to compete with these distractions, especially when a child is still struggling to read fluently.

  • Play word games.
    Use blocks or a chalkboard to play word games with your child. First write out a word like mat. Then change the initial sound. Have your child sound out the word when it becomes fat and then when it becomes sat. Next change the final sound, so the word changes from sat to sag to sap. Then change the middle sound, so the word changes from sap to sip. Make a game of it!

  • Give your child a clue.
    If your child is stumbling while trying to sound out a word, use your finger to point to the next letter and ask what the letter usually sounds like. This won't always work because many letters have more than one sound, but in the long run it is probably more helpful in building your child's early reading skills than using other types of "clues" like pointing to a picture on the page or guessing the word based on context.

  • I read to you, you read to me.
    Once your child can read, have him or her read aloud to you every day. You can take turns — you read one page and your child the next. It's just another way to enjoy reading together.

  • Read at bedtime.
    At bedtime, tell your child he or she can choose either reading or sleeping. Most kids will choose to read, as long as you don't offer something more tempting... like TV. Children enjoy this special time with parents. You can spend it either with you reading to them or them reading to you or both.

  • Punctuate your reading.?!
    When you read aloud, read with expression. Discuss how punctuation on a page represents ways of speaking. You can say, for example, "When we talk, we usually pause a little bit at the end of a sentence. The way we show this pause in writing is to use a period."

  • Gently correct your young reader.
    When your child makes a mistake reading a word, gently point out the letters he or she overlooked or read incorrectly. Ask questions such as, "Do you remember what sound this letter makes?" Many beginning readers will guess wildly at a word based on its first letter. Children need to be encouraged to pay attention to all the letters in a word.

  • Be patient.
    When your child is trying to sound out an unfamiliar word, give him or her time to do so. If you've ever had to learn a foreign language, you know how difficult it can be to figure out a word you've never seen before.

Once a child has learned how to sound out words, the next step is to help him or her read more quickly and smoothly. How? Mostly with practice and encouragement. The more kids see and work with words, the more they are able to effortlessly decode them.

Reading is like riding a bike. You watch little ones beginning to ride a bike, they're wobbling all over the place. But as we practice and practice and practice, we don't even think about peddling anymore. Eventually we can ride with no hands. – G. Reid Lyon, National Institutes of Health

When kids don't have this type of fluency with reading, they have to expend so much mental energy on the mechanics of reading that they can't absorb the meaning of what they've just read. In fact, children who have problems with fluency tend to find reading to be hard work. They are especially likely to "hate" to read.

Keep reading fun. Use some of the tips listed above. Help your kids through this stage by encouraging lots of enjoyable reading that will give them the confidence and skill to read even more on their own.

Would you like to read more tips? Click here to go to the next set of parent tips. The tips are only loosely grouped according to age level. Read them all, try them out, and see what works for your child.

Feel free to also take a look at a one-page handout that contains shortened versions of the above tips for parents of first graders. (You'll need the free Acrobat Reader available at to view and print the PDF file). You are welcome to print out, photocopy, and pass out this handout if you wish. Or click here to send a friend an e-mail version of any of the parent tips.

Reading and literacy are important issues for public television. More information about reading is available at the new PBS Parents website. Or check the main Reading Rockets website at

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