How to Develop Your Child’s Reading Skills

How to Develop Your Child’s Reading Skills

The Institute Featured on The Balancing Act airing on Lifetime TV

In August, The Balancing Act airing on Lifetime TV invited us to do a segment about our online reading and writing programs. Watch our Executive Director and CEO, Doug Evans, talk with Montel Williams about how to inspire a love of reading, strengthen reading skills, and help kids succeed in school.

In this video clip, Doug explains the importance of reading in preventing learning loss and helping kids stay on track academically. He also discusses the powerful personal benefits of establishing the habit of reading for pleasure. It sparks kids’ curiosity, brings their imagination to life, and has a transformative effect on how they see themselves and their place in the world.

You’ll learn about Institute of Reading Development’s unique approach to turning kids into avid readers, something we’ve been doing for the last 51 years. We bring together live classes taught by passionate teachers, a time-tested curriculum featuring great books for kids, and interactive online reading skills lessons between classes.

We will help your child develop strong reading skills, become an inspired reader, and stay on track this school year.

Every program features live instruction from a knowledgeable, encouraging teacher and lots of opportunities to practice new skills in grade-appropriate books. Between classes, interactive online lessons reinforce and enrich what students have learned.

Early Fall Session

Available After-School or Weekends Starting in October.

Late Fall Session

Available After-School or Weekends Starting in Late October & November.

“I am a Reader”: What Being a Reader Means for Your Child

“I am a Reader”: What Being a Reader Means for Your Child

I grew up in a small rural town. Luckily, my parents were able to take me into the city from time to time. The city was a wonder to me – tall buildings and so, so much action. Still, I couldn’t imagine what it might be like to grow up in the city. Until I met Harriet. Harriet, the spy.

Despite aspects of urban life in Harriet the Spy that were foreign to me (what’s a dumbwaiter?), I identified with Harriet’s relentless curiosity, the profoundness of making mistakes with friends, and the awkward but liberating necessity of apologizing for them.

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I longed to experience New York City as it was described in the book. But I also wanted to roam the frontier because of Davy Crockett, voyage to the South Pacific because of The Coral Island, and live as a gypsy poaching pheasants with my dad like Danny, the Champion of the World.

You see, word by word, sentence by sentence, and paragraph by paragraph I was growing into a reader. I wasn’t simply identifying with the interesting characters depicted in great books – I was coming to identify myself as a reader of books.

Ultimately, my transformation into a reader was one of the most important experiences of my life. Because I thought of myself as a reader, I found myself turning to books time and time again for the knowledge, pleasure, and inspiration I needed, no matter what I was going through. I still find few things as personally rewarding as reading a great book.

If, like me, your child identifies as a reader, he or she will eagerly reach for books and gain all the academic and personal benefits that come from having a lifelong love of reading. On a deeper level, being a reader will help define your child’s sense of self and life’s possibilities, and it will shape his or her relationship with the world and the other people in it.

What Does it Mean to be a Reader?

Because reading was so fun and illuminating for me, I wanted to read all the time. Of course, learning more about other people, time periods, and places was exciting, but what was even more thrilling was this feeling that I was actually having experiences that I couldn’t otherwise have in day-to-day life.

Whenever people read or listen to a great story—one that really captures their imagination—the rest of the world fades away and they no longer even think about the fact that they’re reading. They feel like they’re inside the story, living the adventures and feeling what the main character feels. They are the character. I wasn’t reading about Harriet; I was Harriet. This is what it means to be absorbed in a book. To be immersed, or “lost” in the world of the story.

Kids who grow up to be lifelong readers can get hooked on this feeling from a very early age. Once they have the experience of being absorbed in great books, they will want to have it again and again throughout their lives.

Even children who can’t read yet can get absorbed in a story and feel transported to another world whenever their parent or teacher reads a book aloud. You’ll see little kids listen to their teacher reading with rapt attention. They giggle at funny moments, cover their mouths in shock at surprising twists, and get excited when the main characters triumph. Even before they can read themselves, they are beginning to understand the impact of books.

When kids begin formal reading instruction you’ll see them working hard – maybe even struggling – to sound out words for the first time. The fun of listening to books read aloud and getting absorbed in great stories serves as an important motivator for kids in this stage. Children who understand the rewards of reading want to work hard and learn how to do it for themselves. They’re inspired to keep practicing in lots and lots of books.

By second or third grade, most children can read fluently, and you’ll notice that they make the switch to silent, independent reading. This is a big step for young readers. They’re ready to get ‘lost’ in good books without any outside assistance. This opens up so many new possibilities and new worlds. Independent readers can satisfy their curiosity and nurture a sense of discovery by getting absorbed in the tons of outstanding, imaginative children’s literature that’s out there.

As students enter middle and high school they’re ready to take things a step further and engage even more deeply with books. This is an age when kids are grappling with who they are and what their place in the world will be. Kids who read for pleasure can get help answering these questions as they read great works of literature with complex plots, themes, and characters. They explore problems and moral dilemmas firsthand through the lens of each character’s feelings and actions. This process helps students better understand themselves and others. They get plenty of opportunities to step into other people’s shoes, understand their circumstances, and develop empathy.

When you try to talk to a young person lost in a book, you may not get a response. This isn’t the typical ‘selective listening’ of teenagers, it just means that he or she is deeply absorbed in the story. He or she is growing into a reader, and into a better person.

Word by Word, Sentence by Sentence, Paragraph by Paragraph

The thrill of being lost in a book motivates students of all ages to read as much and as often as they can. It encourages them to develop a regular reading habit.

Why is making a habit of reading important?

The fact is that avid readers get through more words, more pages, and more books than occasional readers. They give themselves more opportunities to learn and grow. They have richer experiences in a wider variety of books. They come out ahead: they’re much stronger readers than their peers who don’t read as often.

The impact of reading for pleasure for an average of just 20 minutes a day is staggering. By middle and high school, if the average student were to read 20 minutes per day, their yearly total would top one million words read.

Just a few extra minutes of reading for pleasure each day really starts to add up. Reading thousands and thousands of words will really improve your child’s reading skills and confidence, and that will motivate him or her to read even more. Your child will finish lots of wonderful books and have many rich, positive experiences with reading, year after year. Becoming a reader will change your child’s life for the better, no matter his or her age.

Reading for Pleasure will Lead to Greater Success in School

Doing a lot of reading outside of school will boost your child’s academic achievement in more ways than you might imagine.

Time spent reading is time spent getting better at reading. Pleasure readers score higher on reading achievement tests and are much more likely to read above grade-level. They read with stronger comprehension than children who seldom read outside of school. Their reading is more fluent, and they read faster than their peers. Reading helps them develop greater stamina and a longer attention span, too.

Lots of reading is also the single-most effective way to build an extensive vocabulary. Readers are exposed to a variety of words that they might not otherwise encounter in everyday life. By the end of high school, the difference in the number of vocabulary words learned by students who read for pleasure and those who don’t is monumental.

Strong readers become strong writers. Along with having a large vocabulary at their disposal, children who read a lot have a better understanding of language, grammar, and story composition. They are even better spellers.

Strong readers become strong students. Children who read for pleasure earn higher grades and test scores in practically every subject, not just reading. Frequent readers build more knowledge; through stories, they often become acquainted with places, events, and concepts before they are introduced at school. They score better on achievement tests in all subject areas, including social studies and science. It’s even been shown that pleasure readers score higher in math.

Being a reader can make a big difference in how a child views school. Children who read for pleasure are more confident and have a more positive attitude about school than children who rarely read. If you don’t read outside of school, school assignments are always your most challenging reading, and they only get more difficult. As pleasure readers continue to read, they seek out increasingly challenging books, so they naturally continue to improve their reading skills. This means that they’re able to confidently keep pace with the increasing difficulty at school.

It’s clear that there are many academic benefits of reading, but the impact of being a reader goes far beyond school performance. Reading for pleasure is also an unmatched source of inspiration and important life lessons.

Reading a Great Book will Spark Your Child’s Imagination

Getting lost in a truly great book is not only fun, it also expands your horizons. Being absorbed in the story you’re reading allows you to visit new places and go on exhilarating adventures right along with the main characters. Never been dog sledding in Alaska? Never scoured the seas for treasure with a pirate crew? Or jousted in a royal tournament? No matter. Just read a book and you can imaginatively do all these things and more – anything, really.

When you identify with the characters in a great work of literature, you’re on a journey with them. You’re doing what they do. You feel pain at the obstacles they face, and joy at their victories. It is possible to develop empathy and understanding for a wide array of people and cultures through reading.

Even the most fantastical story will teach your child valuable lessons that can be applied to real life situations. By going through ups and downs with the characters in a book, and observing where their actions and choices lead them, your child will be equipped to make tough decisions about everyday issues – everything from making friends, to facing fears with courage, to becoming independent, to showing love and kindness, and much, much more.

As much as I enjoyed imagining life in the city, what stuck with me most from Harriet the Spy were lessons about how to temper honesty with respect and empathy, and how to apologize to dear friends for mistakes.

I learned such wonderful, timeless lessons from that one book. And I was learning other important lessons from every book I read. Slowly but surely, being a reader helped me build a set of personal values and internal instructions for my life.

Reading Lots of Great Books will Shape Your Child’s Character and Outlook on Life

When reading is a regular part of your life, you read a lot of books. You meet a lot of characters, go on a lot of exciting adventures, and learn a lot of truths. You enlarge your perspective.

The cumulative effect of reading a lot is that you can see the innumerable, amazing possibilities in life. As your child reads great books, his or her capacity to imagine new possibilities will grow. Your child’s dreams will take flight, and he or she will be moved to try to make them come true.

Reading many books will also demonstrate for your child that there are always obstacles to getting where we want to go, but courage, perseverance, and faith exist to help us find a way forward, even when it seems impossible.

I know from personal experience that if your child can say with pride and confidence, “I am a reader,” it will make a big difference over the course of his or her lifetime. As a child, reading showed me that I had more paths open to me than I first thought. Even now, books continue to inspire me. They expand my imagination and motivate me to live the best life possible. They can do the same for your child.

Doug Evans started out as a reading teacher for the Institute in 1995 and spent more than a decade training teachers to provide inspiring instruction. He is currently the Executive Director of the Institute of Reading Development, where he was surprised and delighted to find a real dumbwaiter in the office!

Watch your child transform into a lifelong reader and get absorbed in the best children’s literature out there.

Every program features live instruction from a knowledgeable, encouraging teacher and lots of opportunities to practice new skills in grade-appropriate books. Between classes, interactive online lessons reinforce and enrich what students have learned.

Early Fall Session

Available After-School or Weekends Starting in October.

Late Fall Session

Available After-School or Weekends Starting in Late October & November.

How can you make sure your child reads, understands, and truly enjoys great books? Find out here.

Inspiring Instruction: What It Can Do For Your Child

Inspiring Instruction: What It Can Do For Your Child

Want to read this later? Get a free PDF here.

Since 1970, the Institute of Reading Development has been dedicated to one thing: making reading a central part of life for children and adults. We offer programs that give students of all ages the skills they need to immerse themselves in great books, develop a lifelong love of reading, and succeed in school and beyond! Over the past 50 years, we’ve turned more than 3 million students into skilled, enthusiastic readers.

As a result of our unique mission and extensive experience, our current programs stand out from any other educational program available. Our ‘Inspiring Instruction’ brings together a continuously updated curriculum, the best books, and excellent teachers with a passion for books and reading and extensive training in how to keep students engaged online. This one-of-a-kind combination produces excellent results. In fact, it is the overall impact of our instruction that will really inspire your child.

Let me explain what I mean.

The Right Skills

To begin, we will teach your child the grade-specific skills he or she needs to succeed in school and grow into a strong reader who loves great books. Whether your child is struggling to keep up in school, already on track, or exceeding expectations, our program will meet your child where he or she is. Your son or daughter will be appropriately challenged and experience success at every step.

In each of our programs, we teach essential skills by blending in-class instruction from a terrific teacher with fun online lessons between classes. In class, your child will enjoy learning new skills through engaging instruction and dynamic group activities. Between classes, interactive lessons will keep your child focused and provide everything he or she needs to continue growing as a reader. Your child will read and practice skills regularly and make great progress.

The skills taught in our programs will help your child succeed academically and will go a long way toward building your child’s confidence as a reader. When your child’s reading skills are strong, it will make reading easier, more enjoyable, and more productive. Your child will eagerly look to books as a source of knowledge and inspiration and want to continue reading and improving throughout the year.

The Right Books

At the heart of our curriculum are carefully selected books at the right level of difficulty for students in each grade. As your child reads these outstanding books, he or she will get lots of practice applying the skills learned during weekly online classes and interactive lessons.

But for us, the program books serve as much more than material for skills practice. We know that great books also have the power to inspire and shape your child.

Great and good books help us, as parents and teachers, guide young people to the higher values and truths in life. And we know that development toward these higher things is not a given, not in our world today, not ever. It’s a joy to be a parent, to watch our children grow, but it’s always challenging and often hard. We need all the help we can get.

Paul Copperman, Founder and President of the Institute of Reading Development

That’s why we choose the most captivating, wonderful books available for each age. For our youngest students, we pick books with great stories and funny characters, written at a level that ensures kids’ success as they learn to read. As our students get older, we select books filled with exciting adventures and compelling characters they can relate to. These books tell rich and vibrant stories that will transport your child to other times and places. Our program books will engage your child’s imagination in a way that only great books can –through the thrilling, almost magical experience of being ‘lost’ in a book. Your child will share in the lives of the characters and learn from their failures and triumphs right along with them.

To quote the Institute’s founder and president, Paul Copperman, “Good, age-appropriate literature can help form a young person’s character. These great and good books help us, as parents and teachers, guide young people to the higher values and truths in life. And we know that development toward these higher things is not a given, not in our world today, not ever. It’s a joy to be a parent, to watch our children grow, but it’s always challenging and often hard. We need all the help we can get.”

Our program will help your child develop into a reader who is able not only to comprehend great books, but also to experience and learn something profound from them.

The Right Experience

Great experiences don’t just happen, even in great books. That’s where our knowledgeable, passionate teachers come in. We train our teachers to lead activities and discussions that bring kids ‘inside’ books for a unique, immersive experience. From the first class, our reading teachers will make the program books come alive for your child.

Students of all ages love talking about books with others, and leading discussions is our specialty. Every student participates. Every student speaks. Every student is heard.

In each class, students spend some time reading before the teacher stops to review events and confirm that the entire class understands what they just read. What happens next is very exciting. The teacher opens up a dynamic discussion that serves as a gateway into the world of the book. Under the teacher’s guidance, students explore the rich themes and deeper meaning of the book and form individual connections between the story and their own lives. The characters in our program books go through many of the same challenges that real children face every day: becoming independent, overcoming adversity, building relationships, and more. When students return to reading following guided discussion, they do it with stronger comprehension and a powerful sense of connection.

The pure joy of engaging with books in a meaningful way each week will help your child become a strong, confident reader who loves books and reading. When your child connects with a book on a personal level, he or she is ready for the ultimate experience that we want for all readers: the joyful and exciting experience of being ‘lost’ in a great book.

The Right Results

At the Institute of Reading Development, we call the experience of getting lost in a good book “absorption.” When children get absorbed in books, they live the main character’s adventures as their own. Leaving the real world behind, your child may visit faraway lands or live in other time periods, just by participating in the imaginatively recreated world of a book.

Absorption will expand your child’s horizons and make reading meaningful. Although the characters in our program books are fictional, they go through many of the same things as your child. As your child reads, he or she will meet these characters and think things like, “Wow! I’ve always wondered the same thing,” or “This reminds me of what I went through.” Absorption in books is a way for your child to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them and of themselves.

Starting with the very youngest students, who are just learning to read, our programs establish a love of books and reading that puts students on the path to absorption. We teach all of our students the skills that lead to more success with reading, give them practice using those skills in great books, and then guide them to understand and enjoy what they are reading on a deeper level. In the end, our emphasis on understanding and experiencing books leads to absorption. Many students get absorbed in a book for the first time in our program.

I remember one of our high school classes that I taught myself, years ago. An initially unenthusiastic student came to the last class meeting a few minutes early. We talked for a few seconds, and then he pulled out his book and began reading. He was on the book’s final pages.

Other students filed in, and he took no notice as I greeted them. I got ready to start class. Eventually I said, “OK, let’s get started,” and looked at him, on the final pages of his book, still taking no notice of the others around him, turning the pages so that his eye immediately jumped from the end of one page to the beginning of the other. Only two pages left…

I decided to tell the class, “Actually, I need a few more minutes.” I just had to let that student have the uninterrupted experience of absorption for the first time in his life. It was that important.

The Overall Impact

As you can see, it is the overall impact of our unique approach to reading instruction – the skills we teach in our curriculum, the books we choose, our skilled and passionate teachers, as well as our emphasis on experiencing books – that is so inspiring for our students. Bringing the life-changing experience of absorption to our students is at the core of each online program we offer today.

The love of reading that your child develops in our program is formative: your child will identify with many different characters and how they handle the ups and downs of life. This will expand your child’s imagination of what is possible and help your child grow into the best version of who you want them to be in the world. This is what we hope our instruction inspires in every child, adolescent, and adult we teach.

Doug Evans started out as a reading teacher for the Institute in 1995 and spent more than a decade training teachers to provide inspiring instruction. He is currently the Executive Director of the Institute of Reading Development.

Help your child succeed with our continuously updated curriculum, the best books available, and excellent teachers who love reading.

Every program features live instruction from a knowledgeable, encouraging teacher and lots of opportunities to practice new skills in grade-appropriate books. Between classes, interactive online lessons reinforce and enrich what students have learned.

Early Fall Session

Available After-School or Weekends Starting in October.

Late Fall Session

Available After-School or Weekends Starting in Late October & November.

What are some of the academic and personal benefits of reading for pleasure? Find out here.