Published on May 24, 2021

Better Hearing and Speech Month: Encouraging a Love of Reading in School-Aged Children

By: Kaitlynn Wooten, M.S., CCC-SLP

A couple weeks ago we talked about the importance of fostering a love of reading at a young age and how you can help your young children develop language and literacy skills through everyday moments. This week to continue better hearing and speech month, we’ll talk about how you can continue helping them develop those skills as they grow.

Reading is an important part of a child’s overall health and well-being. Children who struggle to read or don’t learn to read well may struggle with emotional and behavioral problems later in life. Helping your child develop reading skills early in life can set them up for success all throughout their life.

Here are some tips to get you started and help you on your journey to developing reading and language skills with your school-aged child.

Read to your child. Make reading a part of your everyday routine. Reading for even a few minutes every day can be a special way to bond with your child and can make a huge difference in their development. Even as your child learns to read and can read on their own, reading to them out loud is still very beneficial as you can read books to them that are slightly above their reading level as long as they can still understand and enjoy them. They can even add new words to their vocabulary this way, too!

Read with your child. Just like with anyone learning any skill, practice is important for children who are learning to read. If they are doing well, your child has a chance to show off what they’ve learned. If they are struggling with reading, you are probably the person they trust the most and feel the most comfortable with to practice and work on areas of difficulty.

Be a role model. Your child notices what you do. If they see you enjoying reading (even if it’s a newspaper or magazine) they will come to learn that reading is important, fun, and valuable and a skill they will carry on into adulthood.

Create a designated reading space. If you set aside an area in your home that is quiet and cozy and store books near there, it makes the reading experience even more enjoyable and special for your child.

Use rhymes, games, and songs. Books are not the only things that can help your child develop their language skills. Singing songs and telling stories can also enhance your child’s opportunities for learning and developing their reading skills. Rhymes and songs are also a great way to expose your child to other languages.

Ask the experts. If you’re not sure what books are appropriate for your child’s reading and comprehension skills, teachers and librarians are good sources of advice on what books are right for your child’s age and reading level. The staff at a bookstore can also be helpful as well.

Visit the library and create one at home. Now that life is slowly returning to normal, many libraries—including the Norwalk Public Library—are opening back up to outside visitors. You can make getting a library card for your child a special experience and can make library visits part of your regular routine. If you have as many books (or more) as toys in your house, your child is more likely to want to pick up a book and ready when they’re bored.

Limit screen time. Create time for reading by limiting the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen, including televisions, computers, tablets, smartphones, and video games.

Support your child in challenging themselves. If your child decides to take on a longer book or one that is maybe at the top of their reading level, offer to take turns reading, alternating paragraphs or pages. If they feel supported in taking on a more challenging book, they’re more likely to push themselves and enjoy read tougher books that will help them develop their reading skills.

Let your child choose the book. Offer your child a few books that are the right type, level, and length for your child and let them choose. If you are struggling to help your child choose books that are the right level, outside of their comfort zone, etc., you can make a deal where they get to choose a book and you get to choose one and they (or you) read them both during reading time.

Get them hooked on a series. Wanting to find out what happens next to favorite characters can be motivation to read the next book or the next chapter. Talk to librarians, teachers, or friends with children of similar age to find what book series they recommend for your child’s age group and/or reading level.

Keep track of what your child is reading. Use an incentive chart to help encourage more reading or keep a reading diary or simple list. In a reading diary, children can also write down their thoughts about the book which can help them improve reading comprehension skills and help guide you in picking books that are interesting to them. Keep in mind, however, that while some children may be motivated by keeping track of what they have read, others are not. If your child does not seem to be motivated by keeping track, don’t force them to keep a reading log because it can make them resent reading all together.

Practice writing. Reading and writing go hand in hand. Children can practice writing by helping you make grocery lists, keeping a journal, making a catalogue of their collections, or writing notes or letters to friends and family.

If your child has trouble reading or doesn’t enjoy reading, look for stories they can relate to. Stories they already know or that offer experiences they can relate to or have illustrations they recognize can help pique their interest and help them enjoy reading.

Encourage your child to read to their pets. Pets can be very patient listeners and reading to animals can be especially helpful for young readers who get nervous reading in front of others.

Focus on meaning. Reading well isn’t just about knowing how to say the words on the page but also about understanding the story. If your child is stuck on a word, help them “sound it out” and then talk about its meaning together. Here are some tips to help them not only read new words but understand the meanings:

  • Talk about the page and ask questions.
  • Help your child figure out the word by re-reading the rest of the page or looking at the pictures.
  • Try not to interrupt unless the mistake affects your child’s ability to understand the text.
  • At the end of the paragraph, page, or chapter, go back to words your child didn’t know or had trouble sounding out and review them together.

Choose books with movement and activity for impatient readers. Books with short chapters or “cliff-hangers” encourage children to keep reading. Use sound effects and different voices to help keep the story interesting.

Have fun with word play. Tell jokes with puns and play games that involve words like Scrabble, Boggle, and Hangman. Do crossword puzzles together and even play “I Spy” with letters and sounds instead of colors.

Encourage reading everywhere. Show your child how to read street signs, the back of the cereal box, or even sports stats. Your child might also enjoy reading non-fiction or comic books. Helping you cook by reading recipes can help them learn to read for detail. Reading can even be incorporated into limited and supervised screen or internet time.

Give books and magazine subscriptions as gifts. For your child’s next birthday, ask family and friends to gift a book they think your child might enjoy.

Books aren’t just for bedtime. While bedtime is a great designated time for reading, you can also encourage your child to start a habit of bringing something to read when in the car or in a waiting room.

If you find you are taking steps to help your child read and they are still struggling, you can talk to your doctor or your child’s teacher to determine whether they may need some extra help. Here are some signs you may want to talk to a doctor:

  • They have trouble paying attention when you read
  • They were reading well but now they have trouble
  • They are finding it difficult to remember words that they should know
  • They seem to read very slowly or make a lot of mistakes when reading
  • They frequently avoid reading altogether
  • · They complain of headaches when reading
  • · They have a lot of trouble completing homework independently
  • They are having trouble seeing or hearing
  • They become frustrated or depressed by their struggle to learn to read

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