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Reading Across America: How To Encourage A Love Of Reading In Children With Autism

The Benefits of Reading

Founded by the National Education Association in 1998 to commemorate the life of Dr. Seuss, Reading Across America was created to promote and encourage children to read.

Reading is an important skill, and providing the resources and support necessary as a parent or caregiver is an investment in your child’s future.

Children with autism who focus on learning to read and write often see improvements in other areas, such as:

  • Increased social and language skills

  • Improved generalization of lessons learned during therapy

  • Better understanding of emotions

  • Stronger critical thinking and problem-solving skills

  • Reduced stress and anxiety

How to Promote Good Reading Habits in Children With Autism

It is common for children with ASD to find learning in traditional ways difficult because their brains process information differently. This can vary vastly from child to child, so the approach to promoting reading will be different for each child with ASD.

Some may struggle with maintaining focus and following along; some are visual thinkers and need images to help see and digest the story. Others may pick up reading very quickly and show great interest in learning about a specific subject.

Regardless of your child’s reading level, there are many techniques that can be used to cultivate a love for reading.

Tips for Encouraging a Love of Reading in Children With Autism

Here are a few ideas to try if your child is struggling to find joy in reading:

  • Read together – Make it a regular routine, but connect reading together as a fun, enjoyable time to bond. Making positive connections to reading makes it more likely to grow into a hobby.

  • Model the behavior – Become a reader yourself and get caught in the act of doing it in front of your child. They are much more likely to want to read if they see that you are also enjoying it.

  • Keep books in reach and everywhere – Not only for bedtime stories, but keep a book ready in your car, in the living room, or even in a backpack.

  • Take regular trips to the library or the bookstore – Let your child pick out books they are interested in and show excitement when getting a new book.

  • Don’t be afraid to read the same stories again – Many children on the spectrum enjoy repetition and can benefit from becoming familiar with a specific concept or vocabulary.

Finding the Right Books That Interest or Benefit Your Child

Some children with autism may have difficulty dealing with new concepts. Therefore, it’s important to identify what interests your child and pick books that they are interested in reading. For example, if they are fascinated by space, try finding a book about astronauts or the solar system.

If you are struggling to identify a topic that interests them, try finding books your child can relate to that features characters that are similar to them or that cover everyday things, including bedtime, bath time, going to school, or manners. These kinds of stories teach the importance of these tasks, how to accomplish them, and help children model expected behavior.

Establishing a Regular Reading Routine for Children With Autism

Many children with ASD do well with routine, so attempting to make reading a part of their daily schedule can go a long way.

For example, it can act as a prompt for sleep and can even help your child get on and maintain their sleep schedule.

How Reading Aloud to Young Children Builds Their Language and Social Skills

The CDC recommends reading to your child regularly between the ages of 3-5. At first, you, the parent or caregiver, should take the lead. Point to the words as you are reading them, sounding out each word phonetically so your child can hear and see the words read.

You can also try to identify the correlations between the illustrations with the progression of the story. It may even help to emphasize nouns by pointing toward a pet if the book mentions one and acting out verbs like demonstrating how to wave to someone if the story has a character waving to a friend.

Reading aloud with your child will help improve their language and social skills. According to a study conducted by professors at the University of Washington, reading out loud to a nonverbal child can help them become more verbal. Children may have questions or try to imitate you as you’re reading, so make sure to praise this behavior as it’s happening!

Once your child feels confident enough and has a stronger grasp on reading, let them take the lead and help them sound out any words that they may have difficulty pronouncing.

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