Roadschooling: How to improve your child’s reading skills

Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.
~William Butler Yeats

Reading. It’s essential. It’s basic to our ability to navigate our world. And if our kids aren’t reading, then we, as parents, worry.

As traveling, roadschooling parents, it’s hard to know how much time to dedicate to reading instruction. Do we take time out of our experiences in the real world to sit down with workbooks to help our children learn? Or do we carry on, hoping they’ll somehow figure it out?


I think it’s important to understand the process of reading in order to know what to focus on.

When it comes to the instruction of reading, the deepest, most profound impact I had on my instructional thoughts and ideas came from reading The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. That book, single-handedly, changed how I taught reading in my classroom. I encourage every parent to buy the book and read it. Don’t worry about the lists of books in the back of the book, but read the front part – the part where he talks about why you should be reading aloud to your child.

The basic idea behind read aloud is that language development comes in a hierarchy, and if we’re consciously aware of that process, we can foster the growth.

listening comprehension pyramid

Listening comprehension is the foundation upon which other language skills rest. Improve listening comprehension and you drive the rest up.

The base of all language arts skills is listening comprehension. We start working on that from the day our children are born by talking to them. Hopefully, we read them books that use different vocabulary from what we use in our day-to-day life. As children hear us speak and read books, they hear various words and figure out their meaning from the context of how they are used.

Sadly, some parents don’t read to their children at all, or they stop doing so at an early age. That is the single most thing a parent can do to prevent their children from learning to read and enjoy it. On the flip side, parents who do read to their children daily are doing the best possible activity to promote reading.

Researchers have found that listening is the base for everything else.

If kids hear words being used, then they will eventually be able to use those words in their own spoken language, and then they’ll be able to read them and write them. None of other categories will move upward if that listening part stays stagnant.

And that’s where that whole read aloud thing comes into play.

When parents read to their children, they are able to read more advanced books that the children will be capable of reading on their own. Generally speaking, a child’s listening comprehension is at least two years ahead of their reading capability. They will naturally ask for books at their level and, through listening to books at a higher level than they could read, you are introducing more advanced vocabulary.

Once children orally comprehend the advanced vocabulary, you’ll see that transfer to their speaking, reading, and writing.

In other words, the single best thing a parent can do to help your child learn to read is to read to him. Reading to your child will promote an interest in stories and provide the background and vocabulary basis to build upon.

reading in tent

Reading to your children helps them become independent readers

It should come as no surprise that reading to kids is not travel-exclusive. No matter where you live or what you are doing, reading to your children will provide the basis for their further education. If you are traveling, however, you’ve got the whole travel experience going on which will further their base.

We made a bedtime story a nightly routine and always made time for a story before going to sleep. No matter where we were – in our tent, a hotel, or the house of strangers – we read to our children before going to sleep.

I strongly encourage you to make bedtime stories a habit. You’ll be doing your child a huge favor.

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.
~Emilie Buchwald

Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.
~Marilyn Jager Adams

There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.
~Jacqueline Kennedy

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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6 Responses to Roadschooling: How to improve your child’s reading skills

  1. Azadeh October 24, 2012 at 6:58 am #

    I would like to add one tip to your great article to encourage children to read more : Being aware of your child’s interests and direct her to the related books.This way she likes and will want to continue reading!

  2. Ebram October 26, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    One of the biggest problems in my life is that i use to hate reading and i didn’t use to read when i was child and it is hard to change that when you became older and when you realize that reading is essential for your life, so i hope that every parent do read for their children and make them love reading.

    Great article!

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel October 26, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

      @Ebram, The gift of a love of reading is one of the best gifts a parent can give their child. Reading opens so many doors and is so wonderful, it’s a shame that some people never learned to enjoy it.

  3. 8th grade tutoring November 1, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    Is roadschooling really good way to improve child’s reading skills? Can you tell me some advantges of it?

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel November 1, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

      @8th grade tutoring, If you do a search of my blog, you’ll find LOTS of information about roadschooling and how it benefits kids. I would just like to put in a gentle reminder here that I typically do not post comments by anyone not using a real name – somehow I doubt your name is 8th grade tutoring. I don’t think anybody wants their blog to be used as advertising like that.

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