When Children Start Reading on Their Own

Although formal reading instruction will take place in your child's school, your role as a parent is important. You can help your child become a reader by providing encouragement and support - not just when your child is learning to read, but all through the school years. Here are some ways to support a child who has just begun to read, or an older child who needs encouragement.

  • Respect your child's choice of books. Try not to push a child to read at a higher level than one that feels comfortable. Your child isn't being "lazy" when he or she chooses a book you think is too easy. At this stage, your child is learning by practice and repetition, and feels comfortable.
  • Discuss new books your child brings home from the library. When your child brings home a book, look at it together, talk about the characters and the plot, and help your child think about the story the book might tell.
  • Help your child find books that relate to his or her interests. If your child loves dinosaurs, find books about them - books with facts or information, storybooks, books of dinosaur poems or jokes. If you need ideas, your local library can give you great suggestions specific to your child's interests. You can also check out the children's library resources on the MWR Digital Library.
  • Share the reading. If your child is struggling with a book that's too hard, try taking turns, with each of you reading a paragraph at a time. Your child may have more energy for the extra challenge if you break the reading into smaller units.
  • Praise your child's efforts. Remember that reading can be a huge challenge even after a child has learned to read, and most children need a lot of encouragement to stick with it. You might say, "That was a tough word you figured out!" or "Great! You read almost the whole page by yourself."
  • Help your child see the words all around us. Encourage your child to read billboards and signs you see on the street, at the grocery store or at the doctor's office. Think of activities that require reading but not necessarily from children's books. For example, you can spend time together identifying trees or birds using a pocket reference, or following a recipe or the directions for an easy craft project.
  • Encourage your child to keep building on his or her strengths as a reader. You can use the free online guide from Nemours' KidsHealth website to help you evaluate your child's progress through eight stages of reading development.
  • Continue to read aloud. Your child will still enjoy listening to you read even though he or she is beginning to read. You can read books your child is interested in but is not ready to read on his or her own. You will both enjoy the close companionship and shared experience of reading aloud.


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