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Congratulations! You have an emerging or already reading child on your hands! In Supporting Literacy During the Elementary Years, our final post from the Supporting Literacy Across the Ages series, we will explore what you can do to continue building a reader and writer in your home once your child is in school. Don’t forget about tips made in previous posts such as visiting the library or having a variety of reading and writing materials available!

Try out some of these tips to build your budding reader’s confidence and skills:

1. Find an area of interest: Every child finds different topics interesting. Maybe it’s horses, airplanes, tornadoes or dogs. Whatever the topic may be, find books and magazines about that topic! When you place a book in your child’s hands about his or her favorite subject, you’ll see their eyes light up and the book will never be put down!

2. Make time: It’s still important in the elementary years (and even throughout life) to set aside time for reading. The easiest time to do this with the busy lives of children these days, is right before bedtime. If bedtime is 8:00pm, aim for your child to be in bed by 7:30pm. Then, read together for 15 minutes and allow for 15 minutes of independent reading time. Then when 8:00pm comes around, lights out!

3. Continue to read to and with your child: Some parents stop reading to their children once they’ve developed their reading skills. It is SO important to continue reading together! When my daughter started to read, one way we would spend time reading together was taking turns reading pages. This would give her a chance to see me modeling reading skills, enjoy our time together and practice her reading as well. There are many short-chapter books out there that make great read alouds. One we love at our house is My Father’s Dragon. The chapters are short, yet engaging. If you’re having a hard time finding great read-aloud books, visit Jim Trelease’s website or check his book, Read-Aloud Handbook. I read that book cover to cover when my daughter was three and can’t say enough good things about it!

4. Turn on closed captioning: It’s a free teaching tool! Children who watch TV with closed caption are seeing text and making the connection with how text works—the sounds words make and the way text is used. I first learned about this idea from Jim Trelease’s website and read more about the benefits on Read Captions Across America’s website.

5. Make it fun! Play learning games with your children online, at the table and out of the house! Try visiting Starfall for great prereading and reading activities. It’s a website I recommend to parents time and time again. Even children in Kindergarten can play “I Spy” or alphabet-finding types of games when you’re on a road trip. Print a list of signs they’ll see that they can read, like stop signs, restaurant signs, Do Not Enter, etc., and let them find and read you those signs, crossing them off the list. For older children, start with the letter A, and they have to find a word that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Things can get pretty tricky when you get to Q and Z (for X, we just find a word containing the letter X).

6. Stop and talk: Children’s receptive language is higher then their expressive language. This means they understand more than they express verbally. It’s important to expose your children to new vocabulary and help determine the meaning of words. You can do this by reading books and novels that are above their reading level. They can understand much more than what they’re able to read independently. When you come across words you know your child is unfamiliar with, model ways to figure out what it means. Do some talking together. Stop and ask,”What do you think this word can mean?” and “Let’s re-read the sentences before and after it to see if we can figure it out together!”

7. Keep a journal: Many times, people forget about the writing component of literacy development! It is SO important for your child to develop their writing skills as well as reading skills. A fun way to do get children excited about writing is keeping a family journal. When they are in the early elementary years, you can have your child narrate what you write. Also, let them write! Inventive spelling is great for building confidence as a writer. Let your child read back to you what is in the journal. As children get older, a personal journal might be a better option for them. My daughter was excited when she got her first journal, complete with a lock and key!

8. Books! Don’t forget about books! Try to keep at least one book shelf devoted to books for your children. A good idea is to keep books you know your child is capable of reading at sight level on the bookshelf, so your child will want to read them again and again. You can easily build confidence by reading books your child has read before. Remember to visit garage and rummage sales to build up your book collection. And never forget about the library!

View other posts in this series:

Supporting Literacy Across the Ages

Supporting Literacy During Infancy

Supporting Literacy During Toddlerhood

Supporting Literacy During the Preschool Years