Reading Tips For Parents & Educators

Find expert reading strategies and useful tips to help introduce children to the wonderful world of reading on their own with I Can Read!

Useful Tips to Improve Reading Comprehension

If you intend to help your child become a well-rounded reader, it’s important to improve reading comprehension early on. According to multiple studies, reading encourages brain development in young children, expanding their capacity for creativity, helping them develop empathy, and advancing their vocabulary. It’s a useful habit to develop in kids, which, if properly encouraged, will stay with them as they grow older! 

For your child to reap these benefits, they need to fully comprehend what they read, whether it’s a storybook or textbook. Follow these useful tips to improve reading comprehension in your child.

Choose Interesting Material 

The first step to boosting your child’s reading comprehension is to ensure that they find the material interesting. This way, you’re able to hold their attention and keep them focused on the subject matter. Discover what your child’s interests are and find books that explore the subject or related areas. If your child loves animals, you can buy them books about dogs, cats, and other exciting creatures. Your child will remain engaged as you read these stories together. 

Use Age-Appropriate Text

A child’s brain develops with age. The same way you wouldn’t buy kids clothes that are too big or too small, you shouldn’t buy them books outside a certain difficulty level. Advanced material can overwhelm early readers and impede their comprehension. They won’t be able to fully grasp the concepts outlined in the text, even though they’re interested in the subject matter. On the other hand, material below their reading level will not be stimulating and as a result, will leave kids feeling bored and uninterested.

Age-appropriate material will contain concepts that they’re familiar with and words that they can define and pronounce. It’s a good thing to introduce your children to complex words and concepts, but you need to do so gradually as their ability to understand what they’re reading improves.

There’s a lot of age-appropriate reading material for kids available. Start there and build your way up to improve reading comprehension over time. That’s how brilliant kids are formed!

Employ Visual Cues

Children are visual creatures who learn from what they see. It also helps when they read, which explains why picture books are great for beginner readers. Describe what’s going on in the book as vividly as you can. You can improvise with colors and props as well as other sensory cues like sounds, smells, and sensations to keep your child’s mind fully engaged. 

Invite the child to form their own visual description of the setting and plot to be sure that they fully understand the text. It’s a fun yet instructive way to improve reading comprehension in younger children that not only works for fictional stories but nonfictional ones as well.

Pause and Ask Questions

Before each reading session, take some time to set goals by asking your child a few questions such as: Why do you want to read this book? What do you hope to learn? What do you hope to discover?

While reading with your child, take a pause every few minutes or so to ask them what they’ve learned so far. This is a great way to determine if your child is following or not. It also gives them an opportunity to ask questions and gain a better understanding of the text, which will help improve reading comprehension overall.

Read the Material Multiple Times

Re-reading can help clarify any confusing portions of the text. In addition, it helps your child build fluency — the ability to read articulately, smoothly, and effortlessly. It’s also great pronunciation practice. Perfecting fluency and pronunciation will inspire confidence in your child, which can go a long way toward making them lifelong readers.

Children love to re-read books they enjoy purely for entertainment reasons. Nevertheless, it’s key in familiarizing them with every aspect of the book and exploring the different concepts it presents. Think about how you, as an adult, gain a new insight each time you read your favorite book or study material. Children will also reap the same benefits from re-reading any book they love.

Make Real-Life Connections

A great test of whether your child understands what they’re reading is their ability to make real-life connections. If your child is reading a book that deals with issues such as overcoming a fear or making new friends, it can help to connect those stories to a time when your child had a similar experience. 

Introduce your child to the concepts they’re reading about as a way to improve reading comprehension. A good way to do this is by organizing field trips! If they’re reading about certain animals, take them to the zoo. If their book is about a certain sport, sign them up for a few classes. Physically engaging with the topics they read about will enhance their ability to grasp difficult concepts.

Furthermore, making these real-life connections will build empathy in your child. They may not be able to relate directly to a situation, but if they come across a concept in a book and understand it, they will be able to empathize with a friend or classmate who is experiencing the same thing.

Practice Unlocking Clues

Much of improving how children understand what they’re reading involves practicing — new words, reading aloud, etc. Unlocking clues is another concept you need to introduce. Clues in books help you infer what a character is feeling. The text won’t always describe these emotions directly, so you’ll have to discover the clues and explain them to your kid. For instance, “reddened cheeks” describe embarrassment, while “widened eyes” can indicate surprise or shock. 

When you find such clues in a book, pause and ask your child what they think it means. This tip will not only improve reading comprehension but also help them recognize visual cues and body language in real life.

Utilizing these techniques will increase your child’s appetite for reading and learning. Share what has worked for you in the comment section below and help other kids on their way to becoming better readers!

Reading Tips For Parents & Educators

Find expert reading strategies and useful tips to help introduce children to the wonderful world of reading on their own with I Can Read!

6 Simple Steps to Start Teaching Kids Phonics

If you grew up in the ’80s, ’90s, or early 2000s, you’ll likely remember the catchy TV and radio advertisements touting the benefits of teaching kids phonics. Even today, phonics remains an effective method for teaching beginning readers how to recognize the relationship between letters and sounds, usually in fun and interactive ways. 

As a parent, you may be wondering if teaching phonics at home is right for your child — and, if so, when it’s time to start.

What Is Phonics, Exactly?

Simply put, phonics is the connection between what we say and what we read and write. For example, if a child knows that the letter “c” makes a cah sound, the letter “a” makes an ah or ay sound, and the letter “t” makes a t sound, then they can probably sound out the word “cat” on their own the first time they see it.

Children must be able to process what they read quickly and automatically to become fluent readers. Phonics facilitates this process, linking sounds to letters and letter groupings so young readers don’t stumble over words.

Why Is Phonics Important?

While there have been debates about whether phonics versus whole-language instruction is best for early readers, studies continue to prove phonics’ value. It’s a beneficial method for teaching young children how an alphabetic writing system works and can help them become readers before entering kindergarten.

With phonics, children can independently decode each letter into its respective sounds, which is an essential skill that they’ll use throughout their lives. Even as an adult, you probably use phonics without realizing it! Think about the last time you saw an unfamiliar word, like the name of a prescription drug, and tried to sound it out. You applied the sounds you already know to the letters to make your best guess, and you probably weren’t far off in your pronunciation.

Teaching kids phonics is much more straightforward since most of the unfamiliar words they attempt to read on the page are already familiar to them from everyday life.

When Should You Start Teaching Kids Phonics?

Children are ready to begin phonics instruction when they can identify letters, usually between ages 3 and 4. Your child should also have phonological awareness, or the ability to separate words into their respective sounds. You can boost your child’s phonological awareness through rhyming, singing, and games.

Once a child gains this awareness, they can understand how reading works. However, keep in mind that you don’t have to wait until your child starts school to start this process; the earlier you introduce your child to phonics, the better.

Tips for Teaching Kids Phonics at Home

1. Read Aloud

Reading aloud to your child gets them excited for stories and should make them look forward to reading themselves. Try to make this time as fun as possible, using different character voices and reading with enthusiasm. Books that use creative, made-up words like Pinkalicious and the Pinkadorable Pony are also great for generating excitement and providing opportunities to break down letter sounds.

Always let the child pick the book so they feel involved in the reading process. It’s okay if they choose a short one, especially when they’re younger because text-heavy reads likely won’t keep their attention. As they get older, you can introduce longer books. Angle the book so both of you are viewing the page together. You might even point to each word as you read it aloud so they can follow along and make that connection between what they see and what they hear.

2. Revisit Favorite Books

Most kids can re-read their favorite book over and over again, but that’s okay! Re-reading is very beneficial for budding readers. You may even want to introduce some favorite characters and stories from your own childhood, such as the Berenstain Bears, and read the same book to your little one until they start to recognize certain words on their own.

If you’re tired of reading the same book repeatedly, make a game of reading it in different voices. You can also stop reading at key words to see if your child can tell you what comes next.

3. Listen to Your Child Read

Besides reading aloud yourself, you should also listen to your child read every day, even if they struggle. Whenever they stumble over a word, gently encourage them to sound it out. If they’re still stuck, note which letters and sounds they’re not connecting and focus on teaching those in another phonics session. Pete the Cat is a popular character friend to help your little one stay motivated.

4. Go Slow and Out of Order

It may seem counterintuitive, but introducing letters and sounds in A to Z order isn’t the best strategy. Although experts differ on where to start, most suggest introducing /f/, /m/, and /s/ by themselves quickly followed by /a/ (short a), /t/, and /p/.

You may find that you can introduce one or two phonemes per week until your child has a good enough grasp to form basic words they can recognize and learn to spell. Don’t move on too quickly, but don’t let your child feel bored either.

5. Make the Sounds Meaningful

Connect each phoneme to your things your child recognizes. For instance, emphasize that /z/ makes a sound like a buzzing bee, or the /ch/ sound is like a choo-choo train. Making meaningful connections between your child’s interests, identifiable sounds, and letters will help them improve their reading abilities that much quicker.

6. Use Multisensory Techniques

The most effective instruction is the type that incorporates multiple senses. For example, you might smear shaving cream on a table and have your child trace a letter in the foam while simultaneously saying its sound. Creating letters out of clay or kinetic sand works nicely too.

If you’d rather not clean up a mess, tracing letters or words in the air can be just as effective. You can even use magnetic letters and spell simple words on the refrigerator.

When searching for phonics activities to do at home, incorporate a good mix of kinesthetic, auditory, and visual exercises.

Phonics is a tried-and-true method for improving a child’s understanding of how written language works and helping them become independent readers from a younger age. Have you taught phonics to your children at home? Which tips and tricks would you suggest?

Reading Tips For Parents & Educators

Find expert reading strategies and useful tips to help introduce children to the wonderful world of reading on their own with I Can Read!

Summer Reading Tips for Parents

Summertime provides a wonderful opportunity to foster a love of reading with your children. No one’s worried about homework, strict schedules, or report cards. The days are longer, and books can be read with the simple task of enjoying a good story. When school is out and responsibilities are low, take advantage by scoping out books based on your youngster’s hobbies and interests. Here are a few summer reading tips for parents to help school-age children fall in love with reading:

Mix it up.

Aim to strike a balance between discovering new stories and relaxing with some cherished favorites. “Summer is a great time to take some risks and try new books. But never underestimate the power of a good re-read,” says children’s librarian, Laura Lintz, of the Henrietta Public Library in New York. “Emerging readers can gain a lot from revisiting their favorite picture books, beginning readers, and early chapter books. As they gain more reading proficiency, their understanding of these stories may deepen and provide them with feelings of mastery, success, and independence, too!” 

Have a book-themed day.

When your child connects with a story, consider modeling a day or activity after what you’ve read. Hit the beach for a sand-filled adventure after reading “Ty’s Travels: Beach Day!” or plan a day at the aquarium after reading “Little Critter: Going to the Sea Park”. For a more high-brow afternoon, follow up a Fancy Nancy story with high tea. You could even play make believe and let your child pretend to be Biscuit for the day, though we recommend placing a limit on the “Woofs!”

Make reading a delight.

Learning to read is hard work, but it’s relatively easy to turn reading into a reward. We so often let children stay up late for movie nights or family time, so why not add reading to the mix? Allow for an extra 10 to 20 minutes of read-aloud time before bed. Or, let them choose a story to thumb through on their own after their usual “lights out” time. Placing reading into the “treat” category will help them see the practice in a new light. By empowering them read on their own time, they’ll gain confidence and experience a sense of accomplishment.

Talk about books.

Don’t hesitate to pause when you read to your child to discuss an element of the story and ask them how they feel about it. Challenge them to guess what might happen next, or imagine how the characters might be feeling. If you are a reader, tell them something interesting that happened in a book or article you recently read. Hint: Most adult stories have at least one theme to which kids can relate! Hearing about it will help spark their curiosity, and they’ll feel like they’re getting a sneak peek into your life.

Most importantly, summer should be low-pressure. Read lots of books that they are excited about, let them see you reading, and most importantly, enjoy the break. For more summer reading tips for parents, check out this post, 10 Tips to Avoid the Summer Reading Slide.

Reading Tips For Parents & Educators

Find expert reading strategies and useful tips to help introduce children to the wonderful world of reading on their own with I Can Read!

10 Tips to Avoid the Summer Reading Slide

For kids, summer vacation is one of the most highly anticipated times of the year. It comes with longer days, less structure, and plenty of excuses for cold treats. After a school year of remote learning and inevitable challenges, they (and you!) deserve a break. But, the summer reading slide is real. That’s why we gathered 10 tips to help your kids stay on track this off-season and avoid the summer reading slide:

1. Read aloud to them

Set aside 15 to 30 minutes a day to read together with your little one. This can be built into their bedtime routine or happen at any other point throughout the day.

2. Visit the library

Carve out time to visit your local library, or if you’re traveling, a new library! Find the early reader section and let your child choose their own books to check out. Most libraries offer scheduled storytimes and events, too.

3. Have them read aloud to you

Grab your early reader and have them read aloud to you. If they aren’t reading on their own yet, pause when you are reading a story to let them read sight words or identify certain letters.

4. Play word games

Rhyming can help build phonemic awareness and fluency at any age. Choose a word and see how many words you can rhyme with it. If you’re playing with older kids, take turns crafting a story with rhyming words at the end of each sentence and see how long you can go!

5. Be selective about screen time

Screen time choices can feel overwhelming and are still relatively new. Narrow them down by choosing a show that helps teach early literacy skills. For younger viewers, “Sesame Street” continues to be a great choice. Other popular options are “Super Why,” “The Electric Company,” and “Word Girl.”

6. Schedule virtual storytimes with relatives

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s the power of keeping in touch with friends and family who may not live nearby. Encourage relatives to choose a story to read aloud to your kids over FaceTime or Zoom, grab some ice cream, and make a night out of it!

7. Start a book club with a friend

Find a fellow book lover and choose an early literacy book to read aloud with your kids. The next time your child meets up with that friend, ask them both a few questions about the story and start a conversation around it.

8. Give them paper and a pencil

Leave out lined paper or a blank comic book with some colored pencils and see what your kids create. You can also ask for help writing out your grocery or to-do list to encourage them to practice their penmanship.

9. Let them read to themselves

Place exciting, easy-to-follow books around the house for your kids to pick up. These can be wordless picture walks or leveled readers –– whichever you think will spark their interest the most!

10. Model reading

Let them see you reading and relaxing on your own. When you can, put down your phone and pick up a good book. After all, you’re their #1 role model.

Looking for more ways to avoid the summer reading slide? Check out our monthly book club for kids and get awesome children’s books delivered to your door.

Reading Tips For Parents & Educators

Find expert reading strategies and useful tips to help introduce children to the wonderful world of reading on their own with I Can Read!

Teach Your Kid How to Be a Better Reader

We all want our kids to be the best versions of themselves. At times, it can be difficult to distinguish between getting to know our child’s strengths and weaknesses and our desire for them to be good at everything. That’s a lot of pressure to put on ourselves and on our children. When it comes to reading, lower the stakes and try to make the pursuit as fun as possible. Here are a few ways that you can take the stress out of reading and teach your kid how to be a better reader in the process.

Choose age-appropriate books.

Great literature exists for all ages and levels. If you’re a reader, you may be tempted to share old favorites with your child. This can be such a rewarding experience provided your child is ready for them. As with movies, you want to get the age right, so your kids love the stories as much as you do! Try not to rush things, and enjoy finding new classics as well as sharing old favorites. For younger readers, books about Amelia Bedelia and Frog and Toad are well-paired with groovy stories about Pete the Cat or Pinkalicious. Sometimes, the best experiences are the ones you share together for the first time.

Build on screen time.

If your child loves a certain movie or TV show, find a book that features the character. It may not be your favorite way to spend your read-aloud time, but it will allow your child to meet characters in more than one format and associate reading as an extension of something they already love. On the flip side, we’ve spotted one of our favorite creators rapping about various phonemics from old Electric Company episodes. We see you, Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Expose them to a variety of genres.

Do you love thrillers? Nonfiction? Poetry? Almost every genre of adult books also exists for children. Give them a taste of it all, and see what they gravitate towards. Then, help them find more of what they like. Remember that tastes change, so continue to expose them to a variety of stories, and give them the freedom to choose age-appropriate books on their own as well.

Read for at least 20 minutes every day.

Children who read for 20 minutes every day benefit in so many ways: They expand their vocabulary, they learn empathy, and they tend to be higher achievers. Set aside a time to read aloud to them every day. As they start learning to read themselves, you can have them try their hand at identifying various letters and sight words, but don’t push them. Teaching your kids the joy of reading for pleasure is one of the best gifts you can give! The rest will come later.

Reading Tips For Parents & Educators

Find expert reading strategies and useful tips to help introduce children to the wonderful world of reading on their own with I Can Read!

8 Earth Day Activities for Kids to Teach Them About the Planet

Since 1970, Earth Day has helped kids learn and have fun while increasing awareness of environmental issues. More than a billion people across 193 countries celebrate it every year and learn ways to become better caretakers of our one and only home. Here are some fun Earth Day activities for kids that will help them learn how to preserve the planet and its environment.

1. Go for a Nature Walk

Taking your child for a hike or walk through a park will let them experience some of the Earth’s beautiful scenery for themselves. They can catch a glimpse of various animals, insects, and flowers and appreciate the natural beauty around them. Getting away from day-to-day life for an hour or two will help them realize that natural habitats are precious and that we should preserve them.

While you’re walking, you can teach your child to identify some of the common plants and animals in your area. You can also teach them how to read a compass, navigate using the sun, and forage native plants like dandelions and blackberries.

2. Make Crafts

For Earth Day, your family can make globe ornaments, T-shirts, colorings, collages, or anything else you can imagine. You can make playdough with supplies you probably already have at home — water, flour, and salt — for sculptures or decorations. Add food coloring to the dough, or help your children paint the finished product. Then, bake until it hardens and let it cool. 

You can also visit an art or craft store for T-shirt paint and then paint an old T-shirt. Make a collage from scraps of paper that would otherwise end up in the trash. Encourage your kids to reuse items when possible to help the environment.

3. Start a Garden

Growing your own produce can help your family save money on groceries and avoid some trips to the store — you can even share your harvest with friends, family, and neighbors! Berries, tomatoes, cauliflower, lettuce, green beans, okra, and potatoes all make great crops for a garden. Herbs like mint or rosemary can help keep bugs away and enhance your cooking. They’re also small enough to grow easily on a windowsill or balcony if you don’t have a large yard. If you don’t feel like cooking what you grow, you can choose decorative succulents, orchids, or other indoor/outdoor plants to bring some natural beauty to your home. 

With a garden, you can teach your kids how plants produce oxygen and reduce greenhouse gases. Let your kids help with planting and harvesting to teach them about responsibilities, as well as about the natural life cycle of plants.

4. Start a Compost Heap

According to the EPA, more than 30% of what people throw away could be composted instead. Composting keeps waste from ending up in landfills, emitting methane, contributing to climate change, and reduces water and fertilizer use in gardens. 

Striking the right balance of carbon, nitrogen, and other elements is essential to decomposition and keeping pests away. To create the correct organic chemical cocktail for your compost, add equal amounts of dead branches, twigs, leaves, and materials like grass clippings, vegetable scraps, and coffee grounds. Kids can help in this process by collecting compostable materials and maintaining the pile by regularly turning it for even decomposition.

5. Make a Bird Feeder

Earth Day activities for kids can start small. Bird-watching, for example, can encourage a love of nature wherever you are, even at home! To make a recycled bird feeder, start by taking an empty roll of toilet paper and covering it in peanut butter; then, roll the tube around on a plate full of birdseed. Place it on a branch or hang it on some string near a window so the whole family can enjoy watching all the birds feast on it. You can use a bird-watching book to help kids identify some of the species that visit.

6. Volunteer

Spend a few hours with your kids volunteering with a local nonprofit organization. You can plant trees, clean up litter on the highway, or take care of animals at a shelter. You can even feed wild animals injured by cars or other hazards at a wildlife rehabilitation center. That way, children will learn what it takes to prevent and correct this problem and avoid making those harmful choices in the future.

7. Prepare Some Earth Day Treats

Let your kids help when you make some desserts to celebrate Earth Day. You can cover cupcakes with blue and green icing to make them look like the Earth, or you can serve pudding that looks like dirt with gummy worms and chocolate cookies.

8. Read to Your Child About Earth Day

A good book about the Earth and its creatures and landscapes is a great way to introduce your child to this special holiday. Reading about the subject is important, and it can help kids learn about recycling, helping others, and preserving the environment for future generations. It can also help children with their language and comprehension skills.

These activities aren’t only for Earth Day, you can do them all year long! It’s never a bad time to teach children how they can help the environment and appreciate the natural world. What are your favorite Earth Day activities? You can tell us about any fun things to do that we missed in the comments below.

Looking for more Earth Day activities for kids? Check out this post, Nature Calls: Fun Ways to Explore the Outdoors with Your Kids.

Have you heard about our book club? Learn all about the I Can Read! Book Club for kids!