There are many ways to help children develop literacy and improve their reading skills, which can be done both at home and at school. It is important to start reading with children when they are young. This practice should continue as they grow and mature. Children also should read to their parents as soon as they are able. Literacy development begins at birth and continues at least through adolescence, although it can take place at any age if someone has not developed reading skills before reaching adulthood.
Helping children to develop a large and well-rounded vocabulary is one significant aspect of literacy development. Using challenging vocabulary words in conversation and providing concrete examples or visual representations will help children associate words with their meanings. Giving children repeated exposure to unfamiliar vocabulary words through reading will help cement the meaning in their minds.
Providing children with rich life experiences is another way to help develop their literacy. Reading effectively involves connecting life experiences and knowledge with text. The more that children experience, such as traveling and interacting with various animals and people, the easier it is to relate the written word on the page to their own prior experiences.
Children should be given many choices about what they can read. Getting them to read about topics of interest to them will help increase their interest in books and make it likely that they will become lifelong readers and learners. It is natural that children will have to read some materials that are not of interest to them at school or at home. When possible, however, it is important that they are given the opportunity to read about things of interest to them. Giving children choices about what to read will help even reluctant readers or children with difficulties in reading to develop their skills further.
Making reading materials plentiful and easily available is another important factor in literacy development. Reading both fiction and nonfiction books is important. Equally important is reading magazines, news articles and information on the Internet. Children should be given many opportunities to read and should be able to find information about topics of importance to them. Letting them have their own book collection at home and at school from which to choose is helpful for developing an interest in reading.
Challenging reading materials should be available to children. Their reading skills and vocabulary will be enhanced if they are required to read books and passages slightly above the reading level at which they feel comfortable. This will help build their cognitive skills and feelings of success about reading as well.
To develop literacy, children should be given plenty of reading practice on a regular basis. If reading is encouraged, their skills will improve and they will want to read on their own without being told. Some children, however, benefit from being required to read regularly for a set time period, such as an hour a day.
It also is advisable to make sure that children think about what they read. Asking questions about their reading materials, reading and discussing along with them and having them to relate what they have read to their prior knowledge and life experiences are all powerful ways of improving skills. Having children create models or other tangible items based on what they have read is a hands-on way to promote literacy development.