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From the Editor
I remember when I was in elementary school, my mother quizzed me on my weekly Spelling words—the problem was that her native language was Italian, and she couldn’t pronounce the words very well. So we fumbled along together. Supporting literacy is important for children and adults who are non-English speakers. 

How do you support literacy at home? Read on for ways you can help your children embrace reading and writing at any reading level and regardless of whether English is your family’s native language.

Best to you and yours,
Maria Schaertel
Reading Tip Sheets for Parents
Reading, and a love for reading, begins at home. These one-page Reading Tip Sheets are available in thirteen languages and offer ideas for parents to help kids become successful readers.

Although the tips are divided by age, many of them can be used with children at various ages and abilities — we encourage you to choose the ones that work best for your child.
Here is a sampling of the tips included in this rich resource:

Tips for Parents of Babies

  • Snuggle up with a book. When you hold your child close and look at a book together, your baby will enjoy the snuggling and hearing your voice as well as the story. Feeling safe and secure with you while looking at a book builds your baby’s confidence and love of reading.
  • Talk with your baby all day. Talk about the pictures you see in a book or things you see on a walk. By listening, your baby learns words, ideas, and how language works.

Tips for Parents of Toddlers

  • Your toddler may not sit still for a book. Toddlers need to move. So don’t worry if they act out stories or just skip, romp, or tumble as you read to them. They may be moving, but they are still listening.
  • Recite rhymes, sing songs, and make mistakes! Pause to let your toddler finish a phrase or chant a refrain. Once your toddler is familiar with the rhyme or pattern, make mistakes on purpose and get caught.

Tips for Parents of Preschoolers
  • Give everything a name. Help build your child’s vocabulary by talking about interesting words and objects. For example, “Look at that airplane! Those are the wings of the plane. Why do you think they are called wings?”
  • Does your child need an evaluation? If you have concerns about your child’s language development, hearing, or sight, talk to your pediatrician or teacher as soon as possible for an evaluation.

Tips for Parents of Kindergartners

  • Say silly tongue twisters. Sing songs, read rhyming books, and try out silly tongue twisters. These help kids become sensitive to sounds in words.
  • Read it and experience it. Connect what your child reads with life around you. If reading a book about animals, relate it to your last trip to the zoo.

Tips for Parents of First Graders

  • Try to fit in reading wherever you are. Bring along a book or magazine any time your child has to wait, such as at a doctor’s office.
  • Pick books that are at the right level. Help your child pick books that are not too difficult. The aim is to give your child lots of successful reading experiences.

Tips for Parents of Second Graders

  • Tell family tales. Children love to hear stories about their family. Talk about a funny thing that happened when you were young.
  • Create a book together. Fold pieces of paper in half and staple them to make a book. Ask your child to write sentences on each page and add his or her own illustrations.

Tips for Parents of Third Graders

  • Make books special. Turn reading into something special. Help your kids get their own library card, read with them, and buy them books as gifts. Have a favorite place for books in your home or, even better, put books everywhere.
  • Crack open the dictionary. Let your child see you use a dictionary. Say, "Hmm, I'm not sure what that word means... I think I'll look it up."

Literacy Tips for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities
Develop awareness of printed language

When reading aloud to your child, let your child open the book and turn the pages. Point to the words as you read.

Try reading aloud traffic signs, billboards, notices, labels on packages, maps, and phone numbers. Make outings a way to encourage reading by showing your child how printed words relate to daily living.

Learn the alphabet

Sing the alphabet song to help your child learn letters as you play with alphabet books, blocks, and magnetic letters. Recite letters as you go up and down stairs or give pushes on a swing. A-B-C, dot-to-dot and letter-play workbooks, games, and puzzles are available at most toy stores. Many engaging computer games are designed for teaching children letters.

Help your child learn to write their name and other important words or phrases. Gradually, help your child learn to write more and more letters

Understand the relation of letters and words

Teach your child to spell a few special words, such as their name, stop, or exit. Challenge your child to read these words every place they are seen. Play word-building games with letter tiles or magnetic letters.

Learn letter sounds

Sound out letters. Point out other words that begin with the same letter as your child's name, drawing attention to the similarities of the beginning sound. Use alphabet books, computer games, or car games such as, "I'm thinking of something that starts with “b" to engage the child in alliterative (words beginning with the same sound) and letter-sound play.

Sound out new words

Point out new words. As you encounter them, say the sound while touching each letter in a new word. For example, say "s-u-n" and then blend sounds to create the word.

Learn to read reflectively

Pause for discussions as you read. As you read stories to and with your child, stop frequently to discuss their language, content, and relevance to real life.

Adapted from Literacy Tips for Parents of Children with Learning Disabilities; Excerpted from: Learning to Read/Reading to Learn: Helping Children with Learning Disabilities to Succeed. (1996). National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators. ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, Council for Exceptional Children.
Tips for Parents of English Language Learners (ELL)
It does not matter how much, or how little, you are able to speak English, just as long as you commit to helping your child with their English language skills.

Check out the following resources:

Additional resources