The period when your kids start learning how to read is both crucial and exciting. As parents, there is a lot you can do to help your kids improve their reading skills. One way, according to a study published in the journal Child Development, is to make print references when you read aloud to them. That is, when you read to your kids from a storybook, make sure to point out capital letters and explain the meanings of words you read.

The study was part of Project STAR (Sit Together and Read), a clinical trial at Ohio State University, which aimed to find out how regular reading affected children in a classroom setting. Participants included more than 300 preschool children in 85 classrooms all over the state.

For 30 weeks, teachers read aloud to three groups of students. One group had four STAR sessions per week (high-dose); another had three (low-dose). Teachers in both groups made print references as they read to the children. A control group also underwent four reading sessions per week. For this group, teachers were asked to read to their students the way they normally would.

Results of the study showed that after one or two years, students who were part of the high-dose STAR classrooms showed better reading, spelling, and comprehension skills compared to those in the normal reading group. On the other hand, improvements weren't as clear in students from the low-dose STAR classrooms. However, they still had better skills than those in the control group.

While teachers are responsible for most of the students’ academic advancement, parents should also do their part. Try to read aloud to your kids four times a week. Make print references as well to help them gain a better grasp of words and sentences.

(Photo by sean dreilinger via Flickr Creative Commons)

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