5 Super Tips to Help Turn Your Child into a Super Reader

Learning to read is mysterious and somewhat magical too, every time and for everyone. It is not always easy and even we adults have to face our challenges with it. It is all okay. And even if you have mixed feelings about your own reading powers, you can raise your child to become a super reader (and feel like one yourself!). We know how important reading is to every human: of course as a student in school a child with strong super reading skills will do well in every subject area. But reading is also about a deeply personal freedom: it’s about making a choice that will comfort you, inspire you and help you learn something new. It’s about having a lifelong “go to” way to never be alone, to achieve greatly and to be delighted, nourished and energized when you most need it.


Keep in mind something that has everything to do with your child learning to read: your child loves you. Your child sees you as a hero, a role model, even when you stumble, even when you are not perfect. So you being there to show that reading is something that matters in life is a very big deal. And by doing so, you will change your child’s life forever.


Here are five super tips to help make all this happen:

1. Surround your child with words and stories.

Words and stories are everywhere: let’s make sure the child’s own environment is full of them. Of course I love books but it’s not all about books. Let’s start with books: both on and offline, getting kids near to books is really the absolute most wonderful thing we can do for them. Talk with your child’s school and teacher and advocate for books to be sent home regularly. Connect with your local library. Buy books if at all possible. Have apps on your phone that your child can use to read when they “borrow” your phone. Podcasts too and fun reading games also are all great for building your child’s strengths instead of playing repetitive games all the time. When I talk about the “surround” effect though, I mean also everything from the back of the cereal box (let your child read them while eating breakfast!) and instructions, directions, street signs, text messages from loved ones and more. Finally, last but not least, the stories of your life and the lives of your elders and ancestors also contribute to the reading life of your child. How, you may ask? Being a role model for storytelling shows that you care for the power of story which is at the heart of all reading. And telling stories is a literacy strategy teachers use in the classroom too. It is a way of marinating your children in the sound of language, in rich ideas and narrative structures.

2. Give your child choice and voice

Let’s give our children a way to make choices about what they read: at school they are often not given many opportunities to make choices. At home, if they like to read comics, let them do just that, over and over. If they want to reread a favorite book, let them do that too. Compliment them for making choices. Invite the conversation about choices: ask them why that book or text feels interesting to them. Be an inquiring supporter. Don’t judge them for reading books that might seem “too easy”. Rereading and reading “easier” books is all part of growing as a reader, and savoring the ways reading and books can help us feel good or learn something new. If your child has passions, connect those to books you find at the library and online or at bookstores. Let your child not like a book! Sometimes I think kids think we as adults like all books but one of the hallmarks of a voracious reader is that we don’t like everything we read! Give your child agency and empowerment over their choices and also their strong opinions, We are raising strong humans as we raise strong readers. 


Make sure we are offering our children a wide range of books that represent the “mirrors, windows and doors” (an idea from the legendary Rudine Bishop Sims) showing all the many diversities of humanity and our own. Your child will feel inspired seeing herself on the pages of stories and also seeing out into the wider world. In this way, she will have the opportunity to find and discover and appreciate her own unique voice in the world.

3. Affirm small steps

When our children learn how to walk, we shout with joy when they take one or two stumbling, wobbly steps forward. We rush to take a picture or call a grandparent. But when children are learning to read, for some reason, we are harder on that process. We sometimes tend to skip a lot of the important small steps they take: the first moment they turn a page on their own, the first moment they choose to read a chapter book. Try to spot these “small moments of brilliance” and honor them! Stop for these and admire them, letting your child know that you noticed something special happening.

4. Ask open-ended questions

Sometimes when we read to or with children, we tend to ask questions that we think will help a child learn best. We ask questions we already know the answers to, or questions about plot or character or what the ending might be. But truly the best way to have conversations with our children to grow their souls and spirits as readers is to ask them questions you don’t know the answers to, that no one but your child will know the answers to because they come from within them, these are the questions to build a super reader. “What are you wondering about?” “What surprises you?” “What are you thinking about as you listen to this story?” These are the questions that lead to deep inquiry and that help you get to know your child in new and varied ways. And help nurture your super reader.

5. Celebrate

We don’t often think of celebrating when we think of raising a child as a reader. We more often might think of this when a child learns an instrument and we have a recital or your child makes it to the semifinals of a soccer tournament. But we can also create rituals for children around reading that feel celebratory, whether small and done once a week: a tea party and a reading celebration; a celebration at Sunday dinner to share what everyone’s been reading all week, or to enjoy the holiday World Read Aloud Day together (scholastic.com/worldreadaloudday). Let’s create rituals around reading that feel like a party! I often talk about reading as “serious joy” and that is something we can create at home by doing fun and silly things with reading together. We can have a day where we dress up as characters in our books. We can act out parts together and turn them into musicals by using our technology tools to make music for books we’ve read together. We can hang a big piece of paper on our wall and invite our children to draw their responses to a book we’ve read together. Let’s step outside the pages of the book we are reading, or our child is reading and bring the text to life!