April 13


10 Ways to Make Home Reading a Path to Lifelong Literacy by Kyla McDonald

Home Reading is ideally a time for your reader to unplug and instead connect to the world of stories, information and adventures. Unfortunately, the ideal is not always possible. Busy households can make home reading a chore, or worse a battlefield. As a mama, a teacher and a librarian, I have come face to face with reading frustrations. I firmly believe that everyone can love reading but that the path is just more direct for some than it is for others. Here are a few strategies you can try to shake up the your home routine and put some fun into your child’s reading time.


  • Have a backwards reading day. If your kids are anything like mine, they love things that are backwards or upside down. This week, try a backwards reading day, where your reader can choose a simple familiar book and read it from the end to the beginning! Talk about how it changed the story, why it was funny or silly.


  • Read a joke book together. You and your child can take turns asking each other jokes. Jokes are short, unintimidating and fun to share. Even when I was working with a group of grade 9 students reading at a grade 2-3 level in an inner city high school, they were happy to read each other jokes.


  • Make cookies together. There are many great cookbooks written for kids out there and sometimes the distraction of cookies can be just the thing to take your reader’s mind off the task of reading and understanding the recipe.


  • Write a story and then read it. This can be a more time consuming project and might have to wait for a weekend, but the rewards are worth it. Whether it is the story of when you went camping and forgot to bring the tent or the first time you brought home your family pet, writing a story together has many benefits. Your reader will be familiar with all the words in the story, your reader will have a sense of ownership of something she/he has created. It can also be a chance for bonding and connecting with your reader about something you have shared together.


  • Take turns reading. Sharing the experience of reading can look different for different books. When one of my children was in a reading recovery program and frustrated with the books he was supposed to be reading. We made it fun by taking turns reading each word. The reading still happened, but suddenly it was playful instead of dull. At other times you can alternate each page, each paragraph, or each sentence depending upon what works best for your reader. There is also a paired reading strategy where you and your reader say the words together at the same time, this can build confidence and fluency without your reader having to feel too vulnerable.


  • Set reasonable expectations. Reading is a skill and it takes time to develop. If your reader has not been reading regularly, then expecting her/him to sit for 25 minutes is not likely to be successful. At the beginning of the school year, I start off my class with just five minutes or silent reading time each day. I explain to them that my goal is to give them 20-25 minutes, but that I want everyone to actually be reading. This involves strengthening their reading muscles. I usually increase the amount by 2 or 3 minutes a week and we celebrate when we reach our goal. Reading time often becomes one of the most sought after rewards in my class.


  • Read a blog or a website about your child’s favourite performer, show or animal. Home reading doesn’t have to be from a book. If your child’s really into something, there might be a website out there that would spark some real excitement. Adding the word ‘kids’ to your google search can often lead to finding more appropriate websites.


  • Repetition is golden. As adults we can get frustrated and bored with the same old books for our young readers, or worried that our older readers are reading the same book again. The truth is that repetition is a fantastic way to learn. When a story is read multiple times it builds connections in your reader’s brain. It also helps to boost their confidence and improve their fluency.


  • Read books without words. It’s important to remember that decoding is only half of reading. The other half of reading is making meaning and this is just as important as being able to sound out the words. Books without words allow you and your child to tell the story together and make meaning without feeling threatened by the fear of misreading a word.


  • Try lots of different kinds of books! Most of the kids I have met over the years who have told me that they hate reading, have actually just not yet found the right book. Take a trip to the library together dive into a selection of both fiction and nonfiction, magazines and graphic novels. Ask the librarian for suggestions if you don’t know where to start.


Above all else, take a breath and relax before you sit down to reading time. We all have our own path and developmental time frame for learning to read. The goal is a lifelong one, not how many minutes can you read today, but how can you love reading forever.



Kyla McDonald is a writer, teacher,  librarian, and queer mother of 4. Stories make up the heart beat of her daily life in Winnipeg, Canada. Everyday she nurtures the relationship between people and stories because it is stories that allow us to grow, understand and accept each other in our similarities and our differences. Please visit her at http://www.kylamcdonald.com