How to Read to Your Child for Maximum Literacy Gains

Edward Wong The Educational Parenting Blog Leave a Comment

In a previous post, I discussed how to assess whether a book is at the right reading level for your child to read on their own. But children can also gain reading skills from books that are too hard for them to read, especially if a parent reads to them with the right technique.

What is “the right technique” when it comes to reading?

Great question! Here are six things you can do while reading to your child to help them build literacy as fast as possible:

  1. Draw attention to the text. This may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget that children are still forming habits that we take for granted as adults. We want our kids to learn that a big part of the joy (not to mention the information) we derive from books comes from the words in it, not just the pictures. It’s also important that your child sees the letters in a word as they hear you pronounce them.
  2. Track with your finger. Tracking is the act of sliding your finger along the lines of text as you read it aloud. This both draws attention to the text, as mentioned above, and indicates to your child which specific letter you are reading at any given time, helping them to match sounds to the text and to learn letter-sound relationships
  3. Have your child look at your finger. In order to ensure that tracking the text with your finger is having the desired effect, ask your child to watch your finger. Their first instinct may be to look at a book’s pictures, or even at your mouth or face, and this helps to draw attention to the text.
  4. Look at their eyes and their expression. This will help you to gauge your child’s level of attention and understanding of the text. Are they looking at the text or the pictures? Are they following along as you track the text with your finger? Even scanning from left to right across a line of text is a skill that young kids are still building.
  5. Enjoy the pictures and other features on the book after reading all the text. Discussing and enjoying the pictures is great, too, but try to do this after reading the text.
  6. Be detail-oriented and point out the little things. This might mean over-pronouncing words as you read, especially those sounds which may be unfamiliar.


Reading to your child is an important aspect of helping them build literacy. Through reading to your children, you can teach them to love reading by modeling the joy that comes from opening a book. But you can also help them to develop concrete skills that are crucial for reading, like tracking text and learning new words and sounds. Techniques that focus your child’s attention on the text, rather than the pictures in a book, will help ensure that your child builds these skills as you read to them.

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About the Author

Edward Wong

Edward Wong is a primary tutor and the Senior Designer at English Cosmos. He teaches children how to read, coaches parents on education in the home, and has been passionate about reading education since 2019. He graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Juris Doctor degree and qualified as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).

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