How Can I Help My Child to Read Independently?

June 21, 2022

How Can I Help My Child to Read

Parents might read to their toddler, preschooler and/or grade schooler every night. Storytime is a great bonding opportunity, and reading to children can help them learn new words, grow their vocabulary and begin an appreciation for books and stories. As children grow older, though, parents might want them to embrace silent and solo reading.

While children are never too old to read aloud storytime (teachers read aloud to students through older grades), reading independently helps children to practice their reading skills and enjoy a private reading journey. Parents might wonder: “how can I help my child to read independently?” Use these tips to encourage children to read solo and enjoy that journey:

  • Create an interest list
  • Let children to choose books
  • Gradually introduce solo reading time
  • Host a family silent reading hour
  • Start a family book club
  • Talk to teachers to discuss any potential reading issues

How Can I Help My Child to Read

Why Doesn’t My Child Want to Read Solo?

Parents might be in the habit of sitting down with children before bed and reading them a variety of books. When parents suggest independent reading, children might become resistant. Why would a child not want to read silently or independently?

An estimated 10 million children struggle with reading, and it’s possible that a child just doesn’t feel comfortable reading books alone because they are having issues with reading. Other children might just like the quiet time alone with a parent or the special one-on-one time they receive during storytime.

In addition, having a parent read a story aloud can just be entertaining for children. Parents often create voices for characters and punctuate conversations in the story with emotion. When parents read a story aloud, children might be able to better understand emotions and actions.

Hearing a story is a pleasant experience for many who love to read, though. Even adults enjoy listening to a book during a long drive. Audiobooks can be a great option for flipping the radio dial and trying to find the perfect station during a long road trip.

Children might not struggle with reading independently, but maybe they simply don’t want to read by themselves or to themselves. Perhaps they just prefer storytime.

How Can I Help My Child to Read

How to Help Encourage Children to Read Independently

Reading independently doesn’t have to mean the child can’t ever enjoy storytime with parents again. Solo silent reading is an important activity to help children practice and improve their reading fluency.

When children move from lower elementary grades to around third grade and beyond, they will begin to read chapter books. These longer books could be intimidating to a child, and it’s possible that children are simply feeling overwhelmed about trying to read a longer book alone.

Let Children Create an Interest List

The first step for parents who are trying to move their child towards a more independent reading journey is to encourage the child to create an interest list and a disinterest list, too. These lists help identify everything and anything that stokes the child’s curiosity and that maybe bores or frustrates them, too.

For interest lists, divide up a piece of paper into different categories. Parents can include the following prompts:

  • Sports
  • Historical Figures (or famous people)
  • Places
  • Events
  • Animals
  • Science and Nature

Under each heading, let children write down topics that they find interesting. Tell children that they can leave any prompt or subject blank. Not all children want to learn about sports, for example.

For the interest list, include a space for children to specify the length of books they want to read; for example, opt for a heading for page length or chapter length. This can help parents understand the size of books that children feel comfortable reading. It’s ok if they prefer shorter stories. Parents can gradually help children move onto reading longer books. Reading is, after all, a journey.

On another piece of paper, create a disinterest list. This list can focus on topics and subjects that children find boring and that don’t interest them. Creating a disinterest list can help children understand that they get to control their reading choices. This list can be beneficial for parents who might want to buy books for their child; they can reference the list to avoid topics of disinterest.

Let Children Choose Their Books

Let children take their interest list to the local public library to find books that focus on topics on the list. Using the list as a reference can help children zero in on certain books and subjects, and the trip to the library can be a bit more focused.

However, it’s ok if children choose a book related to a topic that is not on the list at all. The library is full of book choices; give children the power to pick their own books (just make sure the book is on their reading level). Children also could choose alternative reading materials like magazines, graphic novels or comic books; these materials could be less intimidating to read independently.

Gradually Introduce Solo Reading Time

When children have selected their books, the new reading journey can begin. However, children who love reading with parents might not be fully ready to dive into those pages alone.

Parents who are trying to encourage their child to read solo can gradually introduce solo reading time. If the book has chapters, parents can read the first chapter aloud. Then they can prompt the child to read the next chapter independently.

Younger children might have one small book read aloud to them. Parents can encourage the child to read a book aloud to parents and read another book independently.

Another method for slowly integrating solo reading time is to focus on reading minutes. The first day, parents can ask the child to read solo for five minutes (or 10). A few days later, they can bump this time to 15 minutes. The goal is to reach the nightly recommended reading minutes; this recommendation can vary per grade and per district, too.

Host a Family Silent Reading Hour

Children might be more receptive to reading solo if the rest of the family reads independently, too. Make reading a family activity and schedule a family independent reading time. Children learn by example.

Each night, parents can gather the family for a half-hour of silent reading. Everyone should be expected to bring a book of their choice. During the reading time, devices should be muted and placed on a table. There should be no talking or playing.

Children will see that everyone is reading quietly and this is the designated time for this independent activity. However, for children who resist reading solo, parents might ease them into the family routine.

Start a Family Book Club

Another tip to help children embrace independent reading is to create a family book club. Everyone in the family can read the same book. However, a book club is a more appropriate choice for older elementary students who are easing into chapter books.

All family members should read a book that is at the reading level of the youngest child in the family or a book that correlates to the lowest reading level within the family. Help older siblings understand that this club is designed to help their siblings with reading fluency and independent reading.

How Can I Help My Child to Read

Talk to Teachers About Any Reading Concerns

Some children might hesitate to read because reading is a struggle. If parents suspect their child is reading below grade level or is avoiding independent reading because of literacy struggles, they should reach out to their child’s teacher for guidance.

Teachers can help parents understand their child’s reading level and perhaps provide parents with recommendations on how to best help their child with reading at home. Children might need additional enrichment related to phonics skills or reading comprehension.

Readability Also Can Encourage Independent Reading for Struggling Readers

If parents learn their child is struggling with reading and is reading below grade-level expectations, they can use a reading app at home to help their child with fluency and comprehension. Readability is designed to provide reading help for children in preschool through fifth grade.

Children read books aloud when using Readability. The program includes a built-in AI tutor that guides instruction and recognizes each child’s voice. When a child cannot pronounce a word or seems to struggle, the app understands that the child is struggling and can provide help.

At the end of each story, the AI tutor also asks questions to determine if the child comprehends what they read. If a child answers a question incorrectly, the tutor will show a section of the book that provides clues to the answer. The tutor also reads this section aloud, and the child is given another chance to answer the question.

For children who love to have stories read to them, Readability also includes a Storytime feature. With Storytime, children can listen to their favorite Readability stories anywhere. This feature is great for parents to use on trips or long car rides.

Storytime adds another learning component to the Readability program. While children can listen to stories, they are still required to read books aloud when using the program. Storytime can help children transition from hearing stories to reading solo.

Parents who are interested in using Readability can sign up for a free seven-day trial. With a trial, children can use all the features of the program and even become acquainted with their AI tutor. Try Readability today to encourage children to read independently and gain fluency and confidence, too.