One of the most gratifying milestones for many parents is when their child is finally able to read independently. It is a joy to see them pore over books. As a book-loving parent myself, I was delighted when my daughter started reading on her own. Though I cannot claim full credit, there are certainly some strategies that I used to help her development into a fluent reader.
1. A home filled with books
That's the simplest thing to do really. Children by their very nature are curious beings. Keep something in their vicinity and they are bound to explore. And this rule applies to kids of all ages. If your baby is drooling all over your glossy magazine – rest assured that it's not just the pictures but the words too that are having an impact at some level. My daughter's first ever pram had a cloth book attached to its safety bar. She literally chewed on it for many months, but she would sit in rapt attention whenever I read it out to her. Make sure that there are enough books, magazines, newspapers around to increase the likelihood of your child bumping into the written word!
2. Reading aloud
This point has been made often enough and with good reason. Before they can read for themselves, you are the medium between the words and your child. Spend a few minutes every day reading aloud to your child. Choose books with bright pictures and big lettering initially. Point to the words as you read aloud.
Billboards usually make for great reading practice, since they typically have bold and bright lettering.
Visuals are useful aids for early and developing readers. Pictures help the children get the context of the story even if they are still learning to read the words. And studies have shown that as a child progresses as a reader, it is the context and complexity of stories, which makes them more fluent and helps them build their vocabularies.
3. Being a 'model' reader
You cannot expect your child to become interested in reading by merely putting a few books around her. She may show interest in them for a while due to the sheer novelty, but the real impetus will come if she sees you reading. It may just be a newspaper or a paperback, but do model your reading habits so that your child can see you.
And if your child asks you what you are reading, do not shy away from responding. Tell them about what you have been reading in the most age-appropriate way possible.
4. Reading beyond books
Reading, at the end of the day, is not restricted to just books. We are surrounded by a world of words. Open your computer, newspaper or window -- words are staring down at us. Use this to pique your child's interest. Indeed, billboards usually make for great reading practice, since they typically have bold and bright lettering. Every time you stop at a traffic signal, play a little game of reading as many words as you can. The same logic applies to almost anywhere that you can spot a word.
5. Don't compare
Finally, and most importantly, don't be in a rush to make your child a fluent reader. It will happen, but like all milestones, this one too varies from child to child. Some children start reading as early as two! That doesn't mean you start shoving books down your child's throat pronto. Encourage and give support but do not hurry your child along or worse still compare with any other kid.