- Tamar Levy is a reading specialist, former educator, and mom of two.
- She says parents put too much emphasis on the wrong pieces of literacy.
- Here’s what Levy wants parents to know, as told to Lauren Finney Harden.
I’m a former educator with a master’s in reading. More importantly, I’m a mom to two kids. I wish parents would release the pressure on themselves and their children to “keep up” with other children. Especially when it comes to milestones around literacy and reading, I sometimes find myself falling into that comparison trap as a mom.
I believe some literacy rules are outdated, and parents need to not only adjust their expectations but also be creative with resources and the meaning of success.
It’s an exciting developmental moment when your child learns the ABCs. But it’s as important to know what’s next. The focus should be on how to support your child as a reader. Many parents wonder later in life why their child isn’t interested in books or reading, and it could stem from something that happened when they were young.
Reading age is a time to embrace your child’s curiosity and love for exploration, instead of drilling concepts and strategies into them. The more you strive for your child to have a positive relationship with literature from a young age, the more likely your child will have a lifelong love of reading.
You can help promote this by offering children choices. Think about giving them different types of reading materials, encouraging reading in different places, or teaching them different styles, like listening to an audiobook or looking at just pictures.
The ABCs aren’t bad, but you can expand on the song at home by choosing alphabet puzzles that have examples of the letters’ sounds, not just ones that match the letter shape.
You can also point out letters your child knows and talk about letter sounds when reading a book. You can even create sound baskets with different objects around the house that start with the same letter sound. Supporting your child as a reader can also mean paying attention to what your child gravitates toward — space or dinosaurs, for example — and choosing books around those topics.
Let educators help
As a parent, I know it’s sometimes hard to know your place in your child’s education. All parents want the best for their children, and it’s difficult to know what your child is taught when you’re not in the classroom every day. Working on reading skills can be overwhelming if you’re not trained in the field.
What many parents don’t realize is that there’s a method to teaching reading, down to the way and order letter sounds are introduced. As a parent, you can be that safe space for reading at home, where they can associate reading with relaxing.
If you have concerns about your child’s literacy skills, it’s best to set up a meeting with their teacher at the beginning of the year to understand the expectations of your role at home and how you can support what is being taught in the classroom.
Rely on your community
I used libraries as a resource when I was a teacher — I checked out books I taught so that the children in my class could have an opportunity to expand their learning and explore on their own. Now with my own children, we visit the library every few weeks.
Libraries are great for reading, and they teach responsibility. We practice checking out and returning the books. They also offer so much free programming for families to continue their literacy exploration in different environments. You can also check your local children’s museum, which might have literacy sources or featured exhibits.
Measuring success is not how many letters your child can recite or how many words they can memorize. It’s seeing a child have a positive relationship with books. Reading isn’t one-size-fits-all. If your child is engaging with literacy in some way, that’s reading.