Experts: Here’s how to help your kids learn a love for reading

As schools and state lawmakers work to address a slide in youth reading proficiency during the pandemic, there is a massively important role parents and caregivers can play as well.

Parents of kids as young as babies can begin helping their kids with speech and reading, said Amy Kronberg, a consultant with Preschool Promise and an adjunct professor of education at the University of Dayton.


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Kronberg studies the way young children learn and said the time before students get to even kindergarten can be key.

Kronberg said one of the best methods for developing language and literacy is what is called “return and serve,” when an adult engages a child in something that interests the kid.

If an adult is reading to a child, pointing at the pictures, asking questions and teaching kids how to turn pages can all engage the kid and help them develop literacy skills, she said.

“One of the best things that we can do with young children is read to them and model reading and writing,” Kronberg said. “If you think about all the things that we as adults do that we don’t realize is reading, that’s not obvious to kiddos.”

That can include tasks like opening the mail and realizing that it’s a bill or seeing a sign that indicates a specific street, she said.

She noted Preschool Promise, a local nonprofit focused on getting kids ready for kindergarten, sends books and toys home monthly with their enrolled families intended to promote those kinds of interactions. Families are also encouraged to sign up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which sends free books monthly to families to read to their kids from birth through age five.

Kronberg also recommended the local libraries as a good resource to get books.

“We know that exposure to early literacy, these responsive relationships ensure that our kiddos have the best start that they can,” she said.

Helping older kids

Cherie Colopy, Centerville City Schools elementary curriculum director, said one of the best ways to get older kids to read is engaging them in what they’re interested in, whether that’s comic books or chapter books.

“I’m just trying to help encourage families and kids to read the things that are interesting to them,” Colopy said.

Families should also be reading to older kids, she said, especially books that are a little above the child’s reading level.

“It is just as beneficial for parents to read to children all the way through elementary years, even up into when you have more proficient readers,” Colopy said, suggesting that parents and kids discuss the books and what they learned.

Shannon Cox, Montgomery County Education Services Center superintendent, agreed and said the best way to get a student better at reading is more reading, though that can be a struggle when students are already having a hard time with reading, she noted.

Reading is a social mobility changer. Teaching students to read in rural communities in Appalachia and improving reading in segregated schools has led to massive changes in everyday life, Cox said.

“It’s the gateway to all other learning,” Cox said. “It’s really the gateway to human life.”

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