Student Services‎ > ‎ELL‎ > ‎

How can parents help their children with reading?

What Parents Can Do to Help Their Children’s Literacy Skills in English
By Charlotte Johnson, ESOL Teacher

  • Model reading at home.  Show your child the importance of reading by reading books, magazines, and newspapers in front of your child and discussing your enjoyment of reading.
  • Read and tell stories to your child on a regular basis.  Reading stories in the child’s native language is very important.  If you choose to read stories in English, be sure to choose ones that you are comfortable with.  
  • Use and strengthen the native language at home.  Children who know their native language well can transfer the concepts to English more easily than learning the concepts in English first.  For example, a child who learns to tell time in his or her native language needs only to learn the new vocabulary in English.
  • If your child does not know how to read and write in his or her native language, don’t be afraid to teach your child while he or she is also learning to read and write in English.  Many parents are afraid that their child will become confused, but most children will be able to sort the languages out.  
  • If your child already knows how to read and write in the native language, learning literacy skills in English will usually be easier.  Be sure to keep your child reading and writing in the native language as well.  If your child is resistant (which is common), you might want to have your child attend a program for keeping the native language alive.
  • Take an active interest in your child’s reading and writing by asking your child to read you books brought from school and by discussing his or her writing.  You might start the books by looking at the pictures with your child to activate your child’s memory of the vocabulary.
  • To enhance your child’s enjoyment of reading, visit the local libraries and attend story hours and other library activities for children.  
  • Books with audiotapes available in most libraries are a great way to allow your child to improve reading skills in English.  They provide a native pronunciation model of new vocabulary words and allow your child to be exposed to stories that may be above his or her reading level but very interesting and stimulating.  They can be listened to repeatedly for extra exposure.  Parents may also improve their own English by listening to these books with their children.