Three Things Parent Can do to Help

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valChildren who have exposure to a wide range of experiences and information are better readers than children who are not. When people have prior knowledge about a subject, they connect to the words on the page they are reading. If they don’t know anything about the subject, the words have very little meaning.

At Learning Encounters, we see a lot of children who are up on the latest news in sports, music, tech devices, and in general pop culture. Many children, however, have limited knowledge about the world outside their inner circle, and there’s a direct correlation between the exposure a child has to the world and a child’s reading comprehension skills.

What can parents do to help provide their kids with the exposure they need to help them become better readers? Parents can do quite a bit; the process can be quite enjoyable, and it can bring parents and children closer together.

  1. Plan special outings. Look for special exhibits, plays, or films that are fun and educational, at the same time. The California Science Center at Exposition Park always provides an exciting hands-on learning experience for kids. Every child I’ve talked to who has visited the the Pompeii Exhibition has loved it. A new documentary, Mission Blue was just released, which follows an oceanographers quest to save the world’s oceans. An idea: Designate one day a month to go somewhere together. Let a different family member choose the place each time, and have him or her research times, directions, and special instructions.

  2. Watch T.V. together. If carefully chosen, there’s a wide variety of television programming that exposes kids to topics that are new and exciting for them. Depending on your child’s interests, look for appropriate shows on the History Channel, the Animal Planet, or National Geographic Channel. There are biographies, travel shows, and nature shows.

  3. Read articles, or even small excerpts or highlights of an article together, an article that you think your child might enjoy. There are new discoveries in science, medicine, archaeology, technology, and many other fields every week, if not every day. When you hear about something, see if you can find an article on the Internet. Get a subscription to National Geographic for Kids or another children’s magazine. Choose an article or two to read together when each new issue arrives. You will find that your child is reading, without your ever having to tell him to.

    Vocabulary, language skills, and exposure to the world are acquired through rich conversations with responsive adults. With each new experience, talk, react, express feelings and viewpoints. You’ll become one of the best teachers your child ever had.

Valerie Lev, M.A. Ed, is the founder of and director of Learning Encounters Inc. a tutoring center that teaches children through small group workshops. Learning Encounters is starting it’s 20th year.