How has distance learning during the pandemic affected students? A new study from Stanford shows reading fluency among second and third graders in the U.S. is roughly 30 percent behind what would be expected in a typical year due to the pandemic. Fluency is one indicator for reading proficiency, or making the transition for “learning to read” to “reading to learn.” Higher reading proficiency means students are more likely to graduate from high school and pursue meaningful hobbies, interests, and employment. 

Knowing many students are playing catch-up from the pandemic, here are five tips for engaging kids in a way that makes reading (and learning!) feel like fun instead of a chore.

Find a book that’s ‘just right’

Just like Goldilocks’ search for a bowl of porridge, your kiddos should be reading books that are just right — not too advanced or too easy. Find books that are age and reading level appropriate. Wondering how to tell if a book fits the bill? If they can’t read 5+ words on any given page, the book is probably too advanced. And, if they can breeze through the book without asking for help or making any mistakes, it may be time to step it up to something a little harder. 

Look for LOVE 

No, you should NOT start your kindergartner or 1st grader’s reading journey with romance novels, but you should definitely look for books about topics they already love. When you sit down to watch one show and suddenly you’ve binged an entire series, it must have something to do with your appreciation of the subject matter. The same theory applies to books, for readers both young and old.

Come together 

Even if your kids are learning to read independently, it’s a great idea to continue reading with them. As they progress in their reading skills and choose more advanced books, they may encounter unfamiliar vocabulary or subject matter that requires further discussion with a grown-up. When you read aloud, you can show them how to read with a correct rate and pronounce words correctly. Hearing proficient readers will help them get comfortable reading aloud to classmates and younger siblings. 

Let’s talk about it

We know it can feel impossible to slow down when you’re juggling a million tasks and trying not to let anything fall through the cracks. But taking time to discuss what your child is reading can be just as important as the reading itself. Even with classic children’s books, opening a dialogue can make kids feel more comfortable asking questions about something they might not understand or want to talk more about. Try asking open ended questions to engage your reader and foster conversations. As they grow, you can use books as springboards to connect with your kids about their lives and world around them. The ability to take what they read and apply it to real world situations will be an invaluable tool for their future endeavors. 

Books, books, everywhere! 

Create a fun and comfortable reading space for your kids, and in the words of Dr. Seuss, “Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” Simply having books available is a big step. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show children who have access to print reading materials have better literacy outcomes. Moreover, a study from Australian National University found the number of books in a child’s home correlates not only with reading comprehension, but also understanding of common mathematical concepts, and the ability to use digital technology as a communication tool. So, in a world filled with difficult decisions about what’s best for your kids, here’s a no-brainer. Surround them with books and you can feel confident that you’re increasing their chances of success. If you’re looking for a few more options to share with your young readers, try these downloadable books for grades K-3. (And they’re free!)

Want more ideas and tips on how you can raise a reader? Sign up for the Cox Campus – for free! Or get started with our Pop-Up Learning courses filled with activities, story reads, and more to foster a love of reading and learning. We have free courses for kindergarten and first grade as well as second and third grade students.