10 Easy Tweaks to Make At-Home Reading Successful
As a first grade teacher, I have enjoyed helping so many families support their beginning and growing readers at home. I absolutely love answering parents’ questions about their child’s reading, helping troubleshoot concerns and emotions that arise (for parent and child!) and offering doable ideas and suggestions to make supporting reading growth at home easier — and enjoyable!
Here are 10 of my top tips for parents wanting to help their young reader flourish while maintaining both sanity and a happy parent-child relationship!
Tips For Reading With Your Child1 Find a book your child is interested in. Let him/her pick it out if possible. While it can be frustrating (and boring!) for adults to constantly be reading or listening to the same story over and over again, repeated readings of a favorite book are actually very beneficial to young children.
Repeated readings are a great way for children to gain sight words and practice “fluent” reading. Even if they have memorized the book and are not actually reading the words, they are beginning to correlate the way a word looks on the page with its spoken form. This is the beginning of reading – be proud!2 It is desirable for students to read books at their “fluent” or “easy” level when they are reading independently. This means they can read the book smoothly and have high success and comprehension even without parent or teacher support. Which builds confidence and reading ability.
Students will read books at a slightly higher reading level with their teacher at school, so leave that to the teacher (because, let’s face it – you’re probably reading this because trying to read those slightly hard books with your child regularly devolves into meltdowns, possibly even for both of you!).
Trust that your child is getting new reading skills and pushing their reading level just the right amount all day at school. Your job is to keep reading fun, enjoyable, successful and positive. And the way to do that is to have your child read “independent level” or “easier” books at home — Double bonus: doing so also helps your child with fluency, sight word memorization, comprehension and a host of other reading skills.3 Many families do their reading together at bedtime. If this is the case for your family, I highly recommend having your child read to you for 5 or 10 minutes in the afternoon when their minds are fresher.
At bedtime, children are getting into sleep mode and it is not the ideal time to have them using their brains and doing reading (as easy as reading is for adults, it really takes a lot of work and brain power for a first grader to read a book at their level). So, have your child read to you in the afternoon.
Then, snuggle up with your child and read to them as they get ready to drift off to sleep. This will provide them with a chance to feel comforted and safe, to know their family values reading and to hear fluent reading – three wonderful things for your child’s development.4 Make sure your child sees you read, for both necessity and pleasure. Comment on how you are reading the grocery list you wrote or how last week you read a book you really liked and then got to talk to your friend about it. 5 Generally, just tell your child the words he/she doesn’t know. At times, you might ask him/her to use a strategy such as looking at the picture clues or listening to the first sound of the word.
Resist the temptation to say things like “You knew that word yesterday, why don’t you remember it?” or “You’re not trying.” As easy as reading is for us as adults, new readers are working VERY hard when they are trying to read. There are so many things for them to remember and put into practice – trust that they are doing the best they can.6 Read slowly. As adults, we are generally used to reading books from cover to cover without stopping.
It is better to follow your child’s lead, pausing to answer your child’s questions and listen to his/her comments. Discuss the story. Ask your child questions like “What would have happened if…?” or “Why do you think the cat did that?” This promotes comprehension.7 Allow your child to use multiple strategies to figure out a word. Do not force your child to figure out words only by sounding them out.
It is desirable for your child to use picture clues, make a logical guess based on the initial sound and what the rest of the sentence says, and sound out the word among other strategies. Having the ability to figure out words through multiple strategies makes your child a stronger reader.8 Praise your child for his/her progress. Look for things on which to sincerely compliment him/her.
Items for praise can include: remembering a difficult word, being attentive, completing a story, recognizing a new word, pointing to each word as it is read, correctly identifying the initial sound of a word or reading with expression. However, there are hundreds of other things you could also praise. Compliment any positive thing you notice, no matter how small.9 Broaden your child’s perception of “reading.” Along with standard books, encourage your child to read: road signs, cereal boxes, restaurant menus, recipes when they are cooking with you, and grocery or to-do lists.
Also consider adding children’s magazines, comic books, poetry anthologies children’s cookbooks and other less traditional forms of reading to your home library. These can be great for getting reluctant readers “hooked” and for giving avid readers enrichment.10 Note that the average “picture book” has a 4th-grade reading level. While most people think of picture books as being “for little kids,” they are NOT usually appropriate for a beginning reader to read on their own or to you.
Picture books have storylines that young children love, but are written with words that are not easily decodable (sound-out-able). Thus, enjoy reading picture books to your child.
Choose one or two of these tips that you think would make the most impact on the success of your child’s at-home reading time and try them out today! As you get comfortable with those changes, add in a few more of these ideas. Before you know it, reading with your child will have a whole different feel! 🙂
What questions do you still have about supporting your child’s reading growth at home? Send me an email or leave your question in the comments and I’ll see what I can do to get it answered!