Tips for Parents to Help Children Develop Strong Reading Habits

Reading as a family activity is less important to Canadian and U.S. parents when compared to other listed activities according to a recent online survey.

"With just under half of Canada's population considered to possess below-standard literacy skills, parents need to make daily reading a priority for themselves and their children. Our society cannot afford a generation that doesn't enjoy reading," says Dr. Donna McGhie-Richmond, education specialist for Kumon Math and Reading Centres. "Reading as a family drives home the need for literacy at every age."

The survey for Kumon, conducted by Harris Interactive, found that activities such as playing outside, watching a movie and eating together were more important to today's families than reading together.

Nevertheless, 96 percent of parents recognize the importance of having strong reading skills for school and as an adult.

"The study suggests that parents do value reading but have difficulty incorporating it into their families' lives," says Dr. McGhie-Richmond. "Spending as little as 15 minutes a day reading together helps children of any age improve literacy, analytical and lifelong learning skills while fostering a love for the English language."

Getting a child to read can be challenging, but parents can learn new ways to make it fun and enjoyable. Dr. McGhie-Richmond offers the following low-cost tips to help parents promote literacy at home.

1) Bring reading home - Create a reading area in your house that has comfortable furniture, good lighting and most importantly, books. Stock this area with books that you and your children will enjoy, such as how-to books, mysteries, comedies, reference books or even comic books. Look for books that the whole family can enjoy reading together. The local library, used book stores and yard sales are great places to find books.

2) Start a book club - Start a parent/child book club to motivate your child to read with their friends. Parents can learn more about their child's interests and children will get more comfortable reading and sharing in front of peers.

3) Read the book, watch the movie and discuss - Watch a movie based on a book you have read. It gives children and adults an opportunity to discuss the content, dilemmas and moral implications of the story. Also consider reading a book based on a movie your child enjoys. It can provide additional information while revisiting the tale in a different format. This combination sharpens both comprehension and decoding abilities, two of the most important skills for learning.

4) Physical Reading - Make reading a part of your outdoor playtime. Read to your child and ask him or her to act out what he or she has just heard. Older children can read a play and then perform it for the family. These practices help foster a genuine interest in reading and can strengthen your child's comprehension and analytical skills.

5) Read and Explore - Turn family day trips or local excursions into a fun learning opportunity. Have each family member choose an area attraction that they would like to visit. Have older children read about the area and play tour guide for the day. For younger children, choose a book that brings the destination to life. For example, if you are visiting Ottawa, our nation's capital, choose a children's book about the many prime minister's who helped shape this country.

6) Play games that involve reading - Games bring reading for fun into your child's life. Play the child-friendly version of your favorite trivia game and ask your child to keep the cards that have information in which she took interest. Later, your family can make a trip to the library together to find a book on the topic.

Need help selecting books that appeal to your child's interests or reading ability? Kumon Math and Reading Centres offer a free Kumon Recommended Reading List, which includes a range of 350 titles for any reading level. Students can find books on anything from sports to science or adventure books. A number of books have multicultural themes. The list also highlights a section of books that are perfect for parents to read aloud with their younger children. Stop by a local Kumon Centre for your copy. For locations, visit or call 800-ABC-MATH.