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Help Your Child to be a Better Reader

There is good news for parents who want to help their child become a better reader. By taking a few simple steps, parents can put their child on the path to reading success, and the summer is the perfect time to start.

According to Dr. Mary Mokris, reading specialist for Kumon Math and Reading Centres, “Parents need to set an example by showing children how we use reading in our everyday lives.” The Alliance for Excellent Education reports that students who read below Grade level are twice as likely to drop out of school as those who can read at Grade level.

Dr. Mokris offers these tips:

Make reading a family activity. Start by joining your local library, making weekly visits and inquiring about storytime activities. At home, set aside time to read as a family at least once a week. Talk with your children about their books so that they will see that you are interested. Help younger children write their own story to read to the family. In addition to subscribing to your local paper, subscribe to magazines for your children that cover their interests.

Make your home reading-ready. Create a reading area in your house that has comfortable furniture, good lighting and, most importantly, books. Stock this area with books that your children will enjoy, such as how-to books, mysteries, comedies, reference
books or even fairy tales. Reading is easy when the materials are immediately available.

Do it together. In addition to reading as a family, invite your children to read with you. For beginning readers, show them how to use reading in our everyday situations by asking them to help you read a cooking recipe, street signs, or the synopsis of a DVD. Help your older children get involved in current events by discussing a newspaper article with them or have them summarize an interesting article.

Read the book, watch the movie and discuss

Summer is an ideal time to read more books and watch more movies - and if you coordinate this kind of fun into a family activity, there may be far more benefits for your children than first meet the eye.

“Watching a movie gives children and adults an opportunity to discuss the content together, covering its events, dilemmas, and moral implications,” says Dr. Donna McGhie-Richmond, educational specialist for Kumon Math and Reading Centres. “Moreover, reading the book based on a movie provides opportunities to revisit the tale in another format. This combination sharpens both comprehension and decoding abilities, two of the most important skills for future academics, and for life.”

Reading the book first is usually recommended so that children use their imaginations to bring the story, characters and scenes alive. On the other hand, the movie may spark a child’s interest to read the book, so a little parental flexibility on this could achieve the same goal.

“Discussion, of course, is at the heart of this activity,” Dr. McGhie-Richmond explained. “A deeper understanding develops with your child by exchanging thoughts on the events, central theme and the moral dilemmas of others in the story. Most storylines contain conflicts or problems. These are points of discussion with your child. Talk about the conflict of the various characters by asking, “How would you handle that dilemma?”

Also, ask your child which version of the story he or she likes best, and why. Lively discussions give children the opportunity to think about what they have watched, or read, and to share their point-of-view.

To get you started, here is a selection of books from Kumon’s Recommended Reading List, which pairs some of the most popular books with their corresponding movies:

Charlotte’s Web
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Wizard of Oz
Pippi Longstocking
Alice in Wonderland
The Secret Garden
A Wrinkle in Time
Clifford, the Big Red Dog
Curious George

More information on the Kumon program is available online at

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