Do you have a child or tween reading below grade-level? Or they might struggle just a tad in reading more than any other subject? As a literacy specialist with over 10 years teaching children to read and now helping other teachers teach children, there are some easy strategies you can do at home.
First, you know that reading changes their future…right?!
The first few years of their life, your child is learning to read. And then the next 70+ years of their life, they will read to learn.
That’s kind of a big deal.
According to the Responsive Classroom, research says no matter the student’s background, parent involvement is more likely to predict student success in school. That means YOU can do things NOW to help your child read successfully. Responsive Classroom
Even if your child is struggling, let me set your mind at ease. The major factor in whether people achieve expertise “is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement.” (As stated by Robert Sternberg, the present-day expert on intelligence, Mindset by Carol Dweck. ) That means they can do it. And you can too.
In all the years I have taught reading to students ranging from K-8th grade, I have counseled many parents on things they can do at home – purposeful engagement. I offer these nuggets to you so you can help your child be successful in school and in life.
These tips will only work if you actually implement them with consistency. Doing one or two for two weeks isn’t going to make a major difference. Doing one or two of these daily and/or weekly for three months plus, will.
Read, read, and read.
This might sound obvious and even boring, but it’s the most important factor. When I was learning Spanish, my instructor said he had three things he wanted us to do to improve our Spanish. Read in Spanish, read in Spanish, and read in Spanish. I was a little disappointed at these tips, but they were true for Spanish, and they are true for English. The reason professional athletes become professionals is because they practice over and over and over again.
So make sure your child practices reading. Reading at least 20 minutes each night is ideal.
Since struggling readers most likely will fight you on this, you might want to start slowly. It’s like putting a frog in pot of water and turning the temperature up slowly. That might be a bad analogy, but you will remember it.
Strategy 1 – Set a timer for 5 or 6 minutes as they read. Place the timer right next to them. They find comfort in knowing it’s just for a few minutes, it makes them feel slightly in control, and it makes them feel like they accomplished their task. Do that for a week. Add 2-3 minutes each week.
Strategy 2 – Vary what they read. Fiction one night, a silly joke book the next, a planet book, then a picture book, then a chapter from a book, etc. Use technology to download books, articles, or find poems and jokes.
Read to your child, even up to the age of 10 (or older if you want).
They need to hear language being used correctly and pronounced correctly. You are exposing them to vocabulary, grammar, and the habit of reading. Read a poem, a short story, a picture book, or a long chapter book. Whatever floats your boat. Just read to them.
Strategy – Discuss what you liked or didn’t like about what you read and ask them for their opinion.
They should read to you.
By doing so, they will develop fluency – expression and voice. As they read, don’t correct them every time they make a mistake. Would you learn a new skill if every other second someone was correcting you? No! (Think about how much you don’t like your spouse correcting you!) Allow them to grow as readers. They are learning.
Strategy – Focus on one thing you want them to practice as they read. Pausing at punctuation, using their voice to reflect expression, using their voice for bold print words or italicized words, or chunking words together. Focus on one thing.
Read the same text again. And then again.
Each time children read the same thing, it allows them to practice the words and become more fluent with it. You can ask them to read and memorize a fun poem, a short picture book, or a repeating line in a book you read together. This helps them become more confident and develop fluency and voice. They can do this at almost any age. (You might read it aloud to them when they’re younger.)
Strategy – Close Reading. This is reading each time with a purpose. Set a purpose for the 2nd or 3rd time reading. Examples:
First Time – tell me the gist (or big idea) of the story/text
Second Time – look for new vocabulary words and define them (non-fiction); tell me about the character (fiction); draw a picture of a scene or something you learned in the book; act like the character as you read it
Third Time – How did the character change in the story (fiction)? What caused the events that later happened (fiction or non-fiction)? Who does this information help and why (non-fiction)?
Ask them to write about what they read.
If reading is peanut butter, writing is the jelly. You get me?
Your child needs to write EVERY DAY in class and at home about what they read. It is not – write a story about what you did this weekend. No.
Writing suggestions: Write a summary of the text you just read; summarize the beginning, middle, and end of the story you just read; say if you agree with how the main character responded to the problem in the story; list five facts about what you just read; define three new words you learned from your reading; explain how the information you read helps you be a better student or scientist or friend or whatever.
Are you understanding the words coming out of my mouth? 🙂
Writing is imperative. They must develop the skill of articulating and communicating their comprehension and their thoughts. For all the parents that have advanced readers, this is a GREAT strategy to challenge them.
And please – they must practice writing sentences so they don’t live in a world of LOL and OMG.
Parents – You can make these five things as fancy as you want (Like have them act out the poem they memorize, give them a costume, take pictures, create a reading scrapbook, buy them a fancy journal or a giant pencil because those are fun and who doesn’t like a giant pencil?) or as simple as you want (composition book at the dinner table).
Whatever!! Just make sure they are doing these things.
And let’s be honest. Many students spend more than 30 minutes a night playing baseball, video games, gymnastics, or watching a screen.
If your child is struggling in reading, you will be a better parent if you make sure they give 30 minutes to reading.
Do it now before they reach 7th grade! I know. I taught 7th & 8th graders for years. They turn into zombies. Not really. But close.
Good luck, parents. You can do it.
(Please comment or contact me if you want more ideas on how to support your child with reading. I’d love to hear from you!)