Becoming a reader is one of the most exciting learning adventures your grandchild will ever experience. Many children need little more than exposure to books and they’re off on their own. But others need guided support as they struggle with sounds, fluency and reading unfamiliar words.
Reading is a complex process, but it’s vitally important to all learning. For those children who struggle to learn what each of those squiggles means and the sounds it makes, it’s vital that a strong support system is in place to help them make consistent progress. Otherwise children become overwhelmed and discouraged.
The good news is that grandparents are a wonderful resource when it comes to encouraging strong reading habits. Here are some of the ways you can help your grandchild become a strong, confident reader:
- When your grandchildren are very young you can introduce them to the joy of reading. When you spend quality time reading to them, they begin to learn the basics of reading—how to hold a book, top and bottom, left to right, how to turn a page and so forth. All the while you’re enjoying a story or the rhythm of a poem.
- You can keep a reading/writing center in your home stocked with supplies. Include all kinds of paper, pens, markers, crayons, scissors, tape, etc. Your grandchild will learn to create his or her own books and write important messages.
- Keep a mini-library in your home or make a trip to your local library before grandkid visits. Read old favorites over and over again. Stop and let your grandchild fill in the words. Allow them to memorize the text and “read” it themselves. This kind of practice is confidence-building and sets the stage for later independent reading lessons.
- Later, when your grandchild is working on early reading material, remember good readers use a variety of strategies to solve problems. As adults we’ve become automatic readers, we don’t think much about what we’re doing as we read, but young children have to think and problem-solve as they go. You can help by prompting:
- Let’s go back and reread to make sense.
- We can break the word into smaller chunks and read parts we already know.
- We can read past a word to see what might make sense there.
- We read all the way through a word, part by part.
- We use picture clues to help us understand.
- We ask questions such as “Does that make sense?” or “Would that work?” or “Does that sound right?”
- It’s important to understand that it’s okay for children to read books that are “too easy” and also those that are “too hard.” They’ll learn something from each book. Their instructional level is where they can handle most of the challenges on their own. But we grandparents get the privilege of engaging in the fun of reading with them while knowing the practice is a wonderful way to boost their learning.
- Children love to retell a story and it’s a great way to practice the beginning, middle and ending of a story. It’s also a great way to track the arc of a story and understand the characters. Why did Goldilocks go into the Three Bears’ House? What if the ending of the story changes?
- Children also love to extend a story by drawing a picture or doing a painting of the setting. They may want to create puppets to add fun to their retell.
Grandparents want quality time with their precious grandkids. Cuddling up with a stack of books and interacting with them in a variety of ways is not only satisfying; it’s another way we can invest in the lives of those little ones.
Take the time to learn your grandchild’s interests. Then next time he visits you’ll have books on pirates or dinosaurs for him and books on fluffy kittens or unicorns for her. (or vice versa) And, you’ll be building great memories of hours spent in the wonderful world of reading.