HENDERSON, Ky. (WEHT) – According to data from the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), student reading scores have been steadily dropping since 2012. As educators work to provide children with a quality education, one California-based nonprofit is spreading the word to parents about what they can do to help improve their children’s reading ability.

United Through Reading was founded in 1989 by a reading specialist and military spouse. Their goal is to help military parents and caregivers develop reading routines for their children. According to Samantha Lingad, the organization’s Vice President of Programs, their efforts provide ways for parents and caregivers to maintain a presence with their children even if their military duties keep them away from home for extended periods of time. While measuring student literacy is not one of United Through Reading’s primary goals, Lingad says that parents and caregivers can use the organization’s advice to improve their children’s reading skills.

While the national decline in student reading performance is most likely due to a multitude of factors, Lingad says that one probable issue is the amount of time parents spend at work while students are busy in school, which takes time away from parents’ ability to help develop their children’s reading skills. She says that although the pandemic highlighted the need for parents to be more involved in their children’s development as a student, the ongoing decline in reading scores nationwide shows that finding the time to help children learn how to read has been an ongoing problem for some time. This is why United Through Reading says that creating a daily reading routine is essential.

Lingad suggests that one way to encourage children is for parents to ‘model’ reading for their kids. Any literature will be effective as long as the child sees their parent reading aloud. Lingad also says that it’s never too early to teach a child to read, as long as a daily reading routine is established and followed. She also says it’s never too late to start encouraging a child to read. “So even when they’re past the point where they’re past that little infancy stage, it’s still a great time if you haven’t already to start a family tradition of taking a few moments every day, sitting down and reading a book together.”

Lingad also recommends allowing a child to choose what they’d like to read once they reach a certain point in their development as a reader. She says it’s best for parents to help their children find more reading materials as they develop specific interests. For instance, if a child is interested in construction, books about construction equipment are a good choice.

Lingad says that once a child is able to read on their own, parents should continue to encourage the child to read just a little beyond their reading level. “I like to say that it’s like when you are lifting weights at the gym; you always want to challenge yourself with just a little more weight, and it’s the same thing with our little ones’ brains. You always want to challenge them…so that they have something to strive for and they can be introduced to new concepts, new words that are maybe just a little beyond what they are doing in their daily life.”