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Nothing improves a skill more than practicing that skill. This is true in physical behaviors as well as mental behaviors. You cannot win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating by wishing. It takes years of practice and dedication to look like you’re floating effortlessly on the ice. Jumps, spins and other maneuvers are repeated over and over and over again until each nuance of the skill is perfected. It is the same with reading.

Parents, your job is to make reading as pleasant and as fun for your child as possible. Leave the teaching part of reading to the teacher. You don’t want to get into teaching because you may inadvertently instruct something that goes against the reading program the teacher is using. Then you’ll have an angry teacher and an upset child. Let yourself be the one who shows how exciting and wonderful reading really is! You be the good guy!

First and foremost, read aloud to your child every day. Everyone loves to be read to! This forms an emotional bond as well as demonstrates how the skill should be performed. The brain loves repetition, especially when it’s trying to learn something. Reading aloud to your child daily gives the student a model to work toward. Listening to someone read also sets in motion the imagination, which helps to develop comprehension skills.

Have plenty of materials on hand for your child to select from. When children are allowed to select their own reading material, it motivates them to read. Does it really matter what they read as long as they are reading? No. The skill is the same whether they are reading a book, a magazine or the back of a cereal box. If you are reading to your child every day with emotion, excitement and love, he or she will want to read the literature you selected.

When your child reads aloud, find something specific to complement on. Instead of, “good job” when a story is read try, “I really liked the way you growled when the ogre came out.” You can comment on improvement in a loving way like, “You’re sounding out words much faster now.” Make your comments specific, and above all make them positive. Avoid over correcting, except when the text makes no sense. You want your child to want to read with you.

If your child clearly selects material he or she cannot read, you need to gently guide them toward more appropriate matter. Problems arise in older children who are weak readers. Appropriate books for them are considered too “babyish,” especially when the rest of the class is enjoying chapter books. Read aloud those age-appropriate books, and look for books your child can read. Chapter books that are 60-100 pages long, have large print and a few drawings are preferred.

If your child has an enjoyable, consistent experience with reading at home, the stage has been set for success. Shared reading is a wonderful experience parents can use to communicate with their children. There is no greater gift for any individual than the ability to read well, for one can learn to do anything by reading, even figure skating.