4 ways to boost literacy skills



When it comes to helping their child master literacy skills, many parents feel ill-equipped. With a myriad of advice out there, it can be difficult to know where to start.

It turns out, though, that literacy is just like anything else! When you want to become better at any skill—whether it be baking, running, or coding—you practice. The same rule applies to literacy!

Practice makes perfect, and in this article, we break down some easy techniques for helping your child get the reading practice they need to succeed. Ideas include reading to your kids, giving them activities to do while they read, and using printable tools like a Novel Discussion Guide for Parents or Vocabulary Toolkits. You’ll have them reading like pros in no time!


Understanding literacy challenges nationwide

If you have noticed your child’s reading progress slow down in recent years, you’re not alone.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, schools saw significant drops in reading and math scores. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, from 2019 to 2022, fourth and eighth grade reading scores decreased by 3 points. Fourth grade reading scores reached their lowest level since 2005, and eighth grade reading scores reached their lowest level since 1998. 

Unfortunately, these losses in reading readiness persisted after the pandemic: by the end of 2022, only half of 3rd-grade students were on track for learning to read, and half of the nation’s kindergarteners started school already in need of intensive intervention in early literacy skills, according to Amplify.

In response to these educational losses, schools across the country are implementing reading interventions. This September, New York City’s public schools overhauled their reading curriculum with new lesson plans, approved reading programs, and teacher training to address the roughly half of grade 3-8 students who are not proficient in reading. In Alabama, the Alabama Literacy Act has been introduced, which will require third graders to make a minimum score on Alabama’s standardized reading assessment before moving to fourth grade. At the same time, Chicago Public Schools has invested in classroom resources, support, and instruction, yielding a 5.9% increase in the number of students “meeting or exceeding expectations” in the English Language Arts.

Alongside these structural changes at the district level, parents can bolster their child’s reading skills right at home. The key? Encouraging them to practice. The following are some tips for helping kids practice reading:

Reading to your kids makes a difference! Whether they’re just learning to read or they’re powering through the Harry Potter series, it’s never too early—or late—to start reading to your kids. 

Research shows that young children whose parents read one book to them daily will be exposed to at least 290,000 more words by the time they enter Kindergarten. For kids whose parents read 5 books to them daily, that number goes up to 1.4 million words!

The benefits of reading to your kids don’t stop at age five. Older kids whose parents read to them (or with them) have better vocabularies, perform better academically, and are more likely to keep reading for fun outside of school. 

Aside from the literacy benefits, reading together provides an opportunity for precious one-on-one time with your older child. Asking reading analysis questions can give you insight into your child’s life, as well as allow you to impart valuable life lessons.

1. Read to your kids

Reading to your kids is huge! Whether they’re just learning to read or they’re speed-reading those big Harry Potter books, it’s never to early—or late—to start reading to your kids. Research shows that young children whose parents read one book to them daily will be exposed to at least 290,000 more words by the time they enter Kindergarten. For kids whose parents read 5 books to them daily, that number goes up to 1.4 million words—so get reading!

The benefits of reading to your kids don’t stop at age five. Older kids whose parents read to them (or with them) have better vocabularies, perform better academically, and are more likely to keep reading for fun outside of school. Aside from the literacy benefits, reading together provides an opportunity for precious one-on-one time with your older child. Asking reading analysis questions can give you insight into your child’s life, as well as allow you to impart valuable life lessons.

2. “Do” as you read

Give your kids something to do while they readgraphic organizers are a great option!

These types of companion activities help kids focus on what they’re reading and pull the most value from it. By practicing active reading, they are prompted to think critically about content, themes, figurative language, and other forms of analysis. Plus, “doing” while reading keeps them engaged, encouraging consistent reading routines which are essential to building lifelong literacy skills.

3. Discussion guides—for parents!

Need a little guidance on how to get involved? Check out this Novel Discussion Guide for Parents that prompts parents to ask their child questions before, during, and after reading. It’s great for novels, smaller books, and even short stories.

By inviting your child into a discussion about what they’re reading, you will open the door for them to think deeply about their experience and communicate their thoughts effectively. This guide will help them review important elements in the story, evaluate the author’s choices, and make connections to other texts and their own lives. Plus, by taking an interest in their lives, you will show them that you are a resource and partner in their reading journey.

4. Vocabulary toolkits

As mentioned, building up a robust vocabulary is a key benefit to developing strong literacy skills. To make sure kids are understanding and retaining important vocabulary from their reading, you can use Education.com’s new collection of Vocabulary Toolkits

This set of worksheets prompts kids to make connections between the words they learn in fun, creative ways—so far, we have a cut-and-paste quilt, a map, and a graphic organizer! Try out these worksheets to keep your child engaged and learning as they read.


Looking for more literacy worksheets, hands-on activities, and games? View all 4,300+ Reading resources in the Education.com Learning Library.

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