Tips for Parents: Helping your Child Build Their Literacy Skills Everyday

“Parents are a child’s first and most valuable reader.” – Anonymous

1. Take a trip to the local library and allow your child to select books of his/her interest.

Make such trips a family activity that everyone can enjoy! Encouraging dyslexic children to develop an interest in books, is often the first step to help them overcome the “I-cannot-read” syndrome. Books with interesting graphics often appeal to children with dyslexia, as it helps them to decode the meaning of the words, and makes reading less daunting. There are two types of books to choose from: one that is appropriate to their reading ability (for independent reading), and one that is more difficult, for parents to pair-read with their child.

A general rule of thumb for deciding on which book is appropriate to their ability is the ‘80/20’ rule- if a child can read 80% of the words accurately, on any given page, the book is deemed appropriate to his/her reading level.

2 Set up a reward chart to motivate them to start reading.

Print out a vibrant-looking reading reward chart, which your child can use to track the number of books read. The use of such reward charts is especially useful for children with dyslexia, as the structure and visual cues allow them to track their progress.

Reward your child with incentives when they have accomplished a certain number of books. Encourage them along the way in the form of praise. Model good reading habits yourself and set aside a specific time each day for reading. Demonstrating that reading is valued and enjoyable, can allow your child to view reading in a positive light.

3. Take control of the usage of the television, the Internet and the smartphone. Encourage watching educational shows, visiting educational websites and playing with literacy-based- apps instead.

Watching television shows or using the internet without much parental supervision often leads to mindless surfing. Visiting educational websites such as the ones listed below are excellent alternatives and can be encouraged.

Other educational websites include Oxford Owl website ( which has free audiobooks based on the Oxford Reading Tree series. The National Library Board has e-Resources ( which are accessible to library members. They have a variety of read-aloud audiobooks, e-comics and e-magazines which cater to all ages and appeal to auditory/visual learners.

A range of apps designed specifically to help children with dyslexia can be useful too (

4. Create a home environment that encourages reading via everyday activities.

Make reading fun and enjoyable. Have reading materials readily available everywhere in the house, and shelves filled with books that appeal to your child’s interest. Set aside a designated reading corner, preferably a quiet spot, free from distractions.

Ask your child to help you with supermarket shopping; read the labels and discuss the importance of good nutrition. Read aloud recipes when you bake with your child.

When on the road, read out the road signs and ask your child to keep a lookout for such signs. Read with your child anything that appeals to them; advertisements, magazines, song lyrics, a biography of their favourite singer/actor/sports player) Encourage them to read up and research on a topic of interest (sports, music, arts), to be used for dinner-table conversation topics.

For older kids or teenagers, read the headlines of local newspapers and summarise the main points to use as a discussion tool. Watch the local news channel and engage them by asking for their opinions on local issues, sports news, and entertainment news (depending on their interest). Allowing them to voice their views and helping them structure it well can help them improve their expressive fluency.

5. Read with your child every day, at least 15 minutes a day.

Set aside time every day to read with your child and make it a priority. Reading aloud is the single most important thing a parent can do to prepare their child with the literacy skills they need. Dialogic reading or shared reading is an interactive and engaging method that is recommended by experts. It uses the PEER (Prompt, Elicit, Extend, Respond) technique and asks CROWD type of questions (Completion, Recall, Open-Ended, Why questions, Distancing) to elicit understanding. For details, see

Reading aloud with a child is of great importance and reaps many long-term benefits. This includes a more varied vocabulary, improved grammar, increased general knowledge and literacy skills. Be encouraging, patient and gentle in correction, understanding that your child has a learning difference and he/she may require more time and effort to read.

Read and re-read your child’s favourite books. During the second reading of the book, ask questions using the 5W1H strategy (Who, What, Why, Where, When, How). Discussing the characters (character traits, physical appearance), story plot (beginning, build-up, climax, resolution and ending) and getting them to reflect on the lesson learnt/moral of the story is a good way to check their understanding of the book.

6. Encourage the use of proper grammar, sentence structure and varied vocabulary in everyday conversations.

Model good spoken English by speaking good English yourself. Introduce new vocabulary whenever you see an opportunity, for instance, seeing a very tall building, you can say “That building has multiple stories and is so high that it looks like it is reaching the sky. That’s a skyscraper!” Incidental teaching through everyday activities is a great way for them to learn. Making connections with their personal experiences and what they have read is important too (e.g. This book reminds me of…). Play word games (e.g. I spy with my little eye something that …[give clues]) to help improve word retrieval and expand vocabulary.

For older children, you can encourage “thinking aloud” to build your child’s higher-order reasoning skills. For instance, when visiting a fast-food restaurant, you can ask “I wonder what they should do to promote better sales of their burgers?”, and scaffold them by giving some suggestions.

About the Author:
Teo Sue-Lynn
Educational Therapist
Parkway Parade Learning Centre
Learn more about Sue-Lynn

This article was first published in FACETS