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Parents who want to help their children learn to read should just do what comes naturally, says Lesley Mandel Morrow, a professor of education at Rutgers University. Simple, everyday acts like cooking, taking a walk, shopping or sharing a family meal present excellent opportunities to motivate your child to read independently, according to Morrow, an early childhood reading specialist at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE) and vice president of the International Reading Association.
"Voluntary, independent reading is a skill that needs to be acquired by frequent practice and taught just as phonics or comprehension are taught," says Morrow. "Take advantage of opportunities that arise as a part of your everyday life and you will help your child acquire greater literacy skills."
Morrow, along with her GSE colleague Michael W. Smith and Diane H. Tracey, a professor of education at Kean University, have developed a new initiative, "GAINS" (Gaining Achievement in the New Standards), which will offer workshops beginning this fall in New Jersey to guide parents who want to help their children acquire literacy skills.
Following are some practical tips from the GAINS program team:
- Cook together: The next time you cook, ask your child to read the recipe while you prepare a dish together. Together, write down meal plans or a grocery list. Have your child write out a favorite family recipe.
- Go for a walk: Take advantage of your child's natural love of the outdoors. Write about what you see on a walk, keeping lists of the plants, animals, insects and birds you come across. Observe the moon and stars above and keep a log of your observations.