The 4 Best Tips for Helping Your Child Develop Good Reading Habits

good reading habits for a foundation of reading

Developing good reading habits will help your child become a strong, independent reader, but it can be overwhelming and daunting to know what habits to focus on when teaching your child to read. My advice is to keep it simple and focus on the big things that are going to have the greatest impact.

One of my favorite quotes is from C. S. Lewis.

“When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased.”

To me, this speaks to all areas of life. It’s like the illustration where the speaker tries to fit a bunch of big rocks, sand, and pebbles into a glass jar. Have you seen this?


This illustration shows us that it’s important to first identify our “big rocks” in different areas of our lives. Let’s apply this principle to good reading habits.

What are the big rocks or good reading habits when it comes to reading habits and reading instruction? 

Good Reading Habit #1: Children need read-aloud time

When read-aloud time is not negotiable and becomes a daily habit, there will always be time for other activities. The read-aloud is the cornerstone of literacy instruction and should always maintain its big rock placement.

The “second things” like flashcard practice, letter and sound activities, and handwriting development, will all fit better when the big rocks are in place. Don’t try to start with drill and worksheets–these are sand! 


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Good Reading Habit #2: Children need time alone with books that are easy for them to read

We need to provide children the free time to get lost in a good book. This is unstructured time when children can pick books they enjoy that are easy-reads for them. They can choose favorites they read over and over or new books. This time allows them to develop as independent readers, gives them ownership and choice over what they read, and sets the foundation for becoming a lifelong reader for pleasure.

You can download our Lucky Listeners chart to help encourage your child to read books they love and practice reading to others!

Good Reading Habit #3: Children need time for writing

Even if it is the very early foundation of writing for a preschooler, writing is also a big rock. Writing should be seen as the glove to the hand of reading and when young children are exposed to free writing time they will not develop the fear of writing we see in many school-age children and even in adults. Allow children to draw pictures about what you’ve read together, create their own stories either independently or with your help using interactive writing, and encourage them to read these stories to others, thereby creating an awareness of themselves as storytellers and writers.

Good Reading Habit #4: Children need daily guided reading time

Guided reading time is when you model a new book or the next level of reading for your child and then read the selection together. You will want to check out chapter 10 in Teach a Child to Read with Children’s Books where we model for you what a typical guided reading lesson would look like.

One thing I am confident about is when you read aloud to your children daily, help them to gain confidence as writers, support them as independent readers, and give them supportive guided reading instruction, you are laying a strong foundation for capable, lifelong readers–using all the right rocks and good reading habits, of course!



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