How to Encourage Your Child’s Reading and Writing at Home

In order to succeed in school, it’s important that children develop strong language and literacy-related skills early in life. But knowing how to read and write fluently doesn’t just help your child in school. Strong communication skills also build personal confidence. When you can express yourself clearly, you can affirm yourself, argue your position, and persuade. Reading and writing well allows you to own your own power.

Not every child loves to read, but there are many ways to make reading and writing fun, not frustrating

Yet learning how to read and write successfully are complex processes, and they are not always adequately taught in school. For students to achieve academic excellence, both processes require support and encouragement at home.

How? Below are 11 ways that you can encourage young and even reluctant readers and writers to engage with language and become more interested in developing necessary literacy skills.

1.  Model good reading habits

 Help your child understand that reading is important by letting him see you read.

2.  Keep a variety of reading materials at home

Try to keep a range of print reading materials at home.  While your child might not be interested in school-assigned reading, she might pick up a copy of National Geographic or Science left on a table.

3.  Practice reading out loud with your child

If your child is reluctant to read, offer to read every other page or every other chapter of the book he is reading. While your child reads out loud, praise him, often. After, try to have at least a brief conversation about what you both read.

4.  Write short notes to your child

Love notes in lunch boxes, reminders left on knapsacks, apology notes, a list of chores; they all require your child to read and respond to written language. Ask your child to write notes back to you.

5.  Encourage activities that require reading

Have your child read recipes to you, directions for assembling a bookshelf, or a description of a shell found in a reference book. Each reading activity engages your child in language and each helps build literacy skills.

6.  Establish a nighttime reading routine

Late day exposure to blue light can interfere with a child’s ability to sleep at night. Much healthier to establish nighttime reading as print reading time.

7.  Talk with your child

When your child reports on an event, ask her to provide more details. This will help her expand her descriptive ability and improve her vocabulary. When you haven’t time to listen, ask her to provide a detailed account for you to read when you do have time.

8.  Keep a print dictionary at home

If your child is unfamiliar with a word’s meaning, encourage him to use the dictionary, not you. Rifling through a dictionary improves spelling skills and executive functioning skills. Try not to use online dictionaries. If, in a pinch, your child needs to use an online dictionary, steer him away from the junk dictionaries such as Personally, I find Merriam-Webster’s and American Heritage’s dictionaries to be the best for student’s reading and writing needs.

9.  Visit the library with your child often

Have your child apply for her own library card; this gives her a cachet of privilege and helps build an understanding of responsibility. Generally, allow her to choose her own books to read. If you’re not sure how to direct her choice of books, look for those that have won the John Newberry Medal.

10.   Encourage your child to keep a reading journal or diary

Parents are rightfully concerned about the inadequacy of writing instruction in our schools. Students do not receive enough direct instruction or feedback, and they are not assigned enough writing assignments to ensure improvement.

One way to engage your child in writing and to encourage the development of writing skills is to let your child write about what interests him. Allow your child to write about rocks or dreams or teen celebrities; it almost doesn’t matter as long as he is encouraged to write daily. Just the act of finding words for ideas and putting them on paper makes the act of writing less daunting.


12.  Limit screen time, both TV and computer

No brainer, but it bears repeating as we become increasingly dependent on monitors.

Looking for more ways to advance your child’s reading and writing skills? Call me. I’m always ready to help you!

Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized plan for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and career aspirations. Her holistic approach helps students perform well in school and secure admission to top colleges.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.