Entice early readers with fun for free

While it may be hard to believe, a recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation confirmed that millions of American children reach the fourth grade without being able to read proficiently at their grade level. Research has shown that children who do not learn to read at an early age are much more likely to fall behind in their studies or drop out of school. For young elementary school students, the key is to make reading fun and exciting. Here are a few simple steps parents and guardians can take to make reading fun, interesting and a life long habit.

  • Keep books, newspapers and magazines front and center. Why keep books and other reading materials tucked away on a dark shelf in your child's bedroom? Let reading be part of the atmosphere of your home. A recent study commissioned by the non-profit literacy organization Reading is Fundamental found that easy access to print materials improves children's reading performance and attitude about reading and learning. With a basket of books, magazines and newspapers by the couch in the living room, a few books accessible on a counter in the kitchen, you demonstrate that reading is an important part of your daily life and can be enjoyed by all members of the family.
  • Create a new habit. Having reading materials readily accessible also means you are more likely to be reading in the same room with your child. Reading is a great habit to create — both for you and your child. Remember, children love to imitate their parents — so be a good reading model. Take every opportunity to read with your child. No matter where you are, words are everywhere. Ask your child to help you read labels at the grocery store, or to look for a certain road sign. Take a few minutes while cooking dinner to help your child as he stumbles over a word while reading at the kitchen counter. Each time you read aloud together, you are engaging your child's mind and instilling the importance of the written word. Be careful not to criticize, but gently correct mispronunciations. Remember, reading should be fun.
  • Have technology-free Tuesday. In addition to family movie night, have a family reading night or a Technology-Free Night. Spend part of the evening reading your own reading material and part of the evening reading something together — and there’s nothing to rent. While you read your local newspaper, your child could read their own magazine or newspaper, such as “Kidsville News!” Available for free in 60 markets nationwide, “Kidsville News!” also has a section for parents and plenty of interesting, kid-friendly material that children and parents will enjoy sharing together. Reading together is not only educational for the child, but also helps establish a bond between parent and child.
  • Visit the library. Make a trip to your local library a part of your family’s regular weekly routine. Allow the children to pick out their own books and help them understand the importance and responsibility of returning them to the library so that others can enjoy them. In the 2010 Kids and Family Reading Report, the researchers found that the power of choice is a key factor in nurturing a young reader. Nine out of ten children are more likely to finish a book they choose themselves.

However, books aren’t the only thing a library has to offer. Check out the free periodicals in your community.