child reading to himself

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.”

—Plato

It’s hard as a parent to know when your child “should” be hitting those specific milestones and comparing yourself and your kid to others (guilty!). But instead of stressing about where on the chart your smart, beautiful, kind child might be at, lean into how you can encourage and support your child to embrace those milestones.

For example, children may start to read by themselves at many different ages but instead of waiting for the time to happen, you can actively help your young kiddo learn the skill of independent reading.

Here are five tips to help young kids start to read by themselves:

Be a role model

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”

– Robert Fulghum

You won’t have to worry about your children watching you if you’re exhibiting the behaviors you want them to learn; so be sure that your baby or toddler sees you in action! Read a magazine in the morning or book in the evening. Have books on the table and easily accessible to everyone. The more your young child sees you reading, they’ll be excited to want to do it themselves as well (because toddlers LOVE trying to do things on their own).

Read together

Studies show that reading with your child can promote early reading skills. Dedicate time each day to read together. When reading, don’t be afraid to go “off script”–point out new words, add fun voices to different characters, have your child name the things they recognize. The key here is to be consistent, intentional and fun when you spend time reading together.

“A family that reads together, grows together.” –Unknown

Age appropriate

Nothing is more discouraging than struggling to get through a book. A young child will think the same if they are bored with what they’re reading or if they can’t follow along with a more advanced read. Help them pick out books that are best suited for their age and reading level so they feel confident when they open the next book. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this book list of best books for 6 year olds.

“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”

—Malala Yousafzai

Mix materials

Reading is not a skill only learned through books. Even as adults, you can see there are multiple forms of materials that lead to our educational growth and the same goes for kids (plus it keeps it new and fun!). Kids can hone their skills through sight words, comic books, word games, magazines, cookbooks and more. Even using paints, sand or play doh to create letters, sounds or words can support their reading vocabulary and comprehension. And technology has created realms of possibilities for education games like matching words and building phonics awareness.

“Reading is an active, imaginative act; it takes work.” —Khaled Hosseini

Be patient

Like every other milestone in a child’s life, learning to read can and will take time so be patient with them and yourself. Every parent and child are trying their best. The most important thing is to keep it fun and enjoyable! A young child will want to pick up a book if they’ve been encouraged and supported to do so.

“Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.”

—Kate DiCamillo

By incorporating any or all of these five simple ways to help young kids start to read by themselves, then you’ll provide a strong foundation for their learning and reading skills. Enjoy watching your child reach a fun and ever-evolving milestone!