August 13, 2019
August 13, 2019


WORDS:  Manatee County School Social Workers and Psychologists

Many of us have memories of the enjoyment of reading with our parents. Why is it that this practice often stops after children learn to read? The shared experience of being read to, and of reading to our parents, provides many benefits. Here are some important reasons to continue to read with your children for as long as possible.

The practice of shared reading not only enhances the parent/child relationship, it fosters the development of listening skills, spelling, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. It enhances essential foundational literacy skills and is an opportunity between parents and their children to encourage positive attitudes toward reading.

When children are read aloud to, their cognitive development is strengthened as parts of the brain related to narrative comprehension and mental imagery are stimulated. When the practice of shared reading continues as children get older, the likelihood of them becoming life-long readers is improved.

One’s attitude toward reading results from the combined experiences of reading at home and at school. It is important to keep the parent/child reading experience positive and not punitive. This should be a special time shared between parent and child. The emphasis is on the value of reading and being together.

Shared reading provides many benefits for children as they develop early literacy skills. Some tips for how to enhance the development of these skills are included below.


PHONEMIC AWARENESS is the ability to hear and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words.  For example, the word “pig” when spoken has three distinct sounds, /p/ /i/ /g/.  The ability to separate these three sounds requires phonemic awareness.

Why is phonemic awareness important? Children who develop strong phonemic awareness at an early age are more likely to become fluent readers and better spellers than children who do not.

Tips for Parents:

– Do activities with your child to help him/her build sound skills. (Make sure they are short and fun; avoid allowing your child to get frustrated).

– Look at a picture book with your child. Choose pictures at random, pronounce the name of the picture and ask your child for the beginning sound of the picture. (For example, “dog” has a beginning sound of /d/. Show your child a picture of a dog.  Say “dog” and ask your child what the beginning sound of “dog” is). 

– Help your child think of many words that start with the /m/ or /ch/ sound, or other beginning sounds.

– Make up silly sentences with words that begin with the same sound, such as “Pickles and Peachy purred and pounced on ping pong balls.”

– Play simple rhyming or blending games with your child, such as taking turns coming up with words that rhyme (gono) or blending simple words (/d/, /o/, /g/ = dog.)

– Read books with rhymes. Teach your child rhymes, short poems, and songs.

– Practice the alphabet by pointing out letters wherever you see them and by reading alphabet books.

The ALPHABET PRINCIPAL is the understanding that letters are used to represent the speech sounds of our language. 

Why is the Alphabet Principal important?  Children must be able to associate sounds with letters and use these sounds to form words. Basic code is simple. This is when we use the letters of the alphabet alone, as one letter = one sound. However, we often use letters in two’s and groups of three or four to represent the sounds in our language. This is called Advanced Code and it is NOT simple.

The more advanced the code, the more difficult it is to crack. The more difficult it is to crack, the more difficult it is to read fluently.  Understanding the code is the key to developing automaticity (the ability to read without consciously thinking about it) and leads to fluent reading.

Tips for Parents:

Basic Code:

– Make a “Words We Read” collage.  Help your child understand that all print requires reading and if they can read labels, they are in fact, reading.  Have your child collect labels they can read and make a collage.

– Have a “Sound Scavenger Hunt.” Have your child find objects at home that begin with a sound. Cross off the letter and write the name of the object next to the letter.

Advanced Code:

– Provide code overlap charts and cards. For example, the letters “ow” make the sound as in “snow” and the sound as in “cow”, but the “ow” sound is different in the two words. 

READING FLUENCY is the ability to read quickly, accurately, and with appropriate expression. Reading is effortless and automatic for fluent readers. Why is Reading Fluency important?  The ultimate purpose for reading is comprehension. Reading fluency is the key to comprehension. If we want children to comprehend what they read, they must be able to read fluently first. 

Tips for Parents:

– Have your child read aloud to you as much as possible. Silent reading, while certainly useful, has not been proven to increase oral reading fluency.

– Paired reading at home:  Each night the parent reads a brief poem or passage to his or her child. This is followed by the parent and child reading the passage together several times. Then the child reads the text to the parent.

– Echo Reading at home:  The parent reads one sentence or paragraph (length can vary) at a time while the child follows along in the text with his or her finger. Once the parent pauses, the child echoes back the same sentence or paragraph following along with a finger so that the parent can be sure the child is reading and not simply copying the parent.

VOCABULARY is the ability to understand and use words for effective communication.

Why is Vocabulary important?  Children have a much easier time learning to read words that are already a part of their oral vocabulary.  Children cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean.

Tips for Parents:

– Read aloud to your children.  Once they can read fluently, encourage them to read, read, read on their own!

– Encourage discussion about what your child is reading.

– Define and label new or unusual vocabulary words.  

– Play games involving antonyms (words that mean the opposite of each other, synonyms (words that mean the same), homophones (words that are pronounced the same, but are spelled differently), multiple meaning words, prefixes (a group of letters placed at the beginning of a word that change the meaning of the word), suffixes (a group of letters placed at the end of a word that change the meaning of the word), and cognates (words that are similar in other languages: e.g., dictionary-English, diccionario-Spanish, dizionario-Italian. 

COMPREHENSION is the ability to understand and get meaning from text.

Why is Comprehension important? Remember that comprehension is the ultimate purpose for reading.  If a child can understand the meaning of spoken language, they should be able to understand the meaning of written language. The only way to achieve this is to be able to read fluently and accurately. That is why it is so important to focus on the previous building blocks: phonemic awareness, the alphabet principal, and oral reading fluency.

Tips for Parents:

– Talk about EVERYTHING you see and do with your child.  Background knowledge is central to your child’s reading comprehension. 

– Tell your child three related words (e.g. cat, dog, bird) and have your child tell you the group or category to which these words belong (animals) or write down three related words and have your child write down a category for them. 

– Have your child add one more word to each category.

– For a more challenging activity, have your child create his or her own category and add related words. 

– Have discussions with your child about the books and other written material he or she has read. 

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