How can I assist my child in becoming a reader?

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“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.”

How can I assist my child in becoming a reader?


If I could give only one answer to that question, it would be to read aloud to children every day!  Children can understand more complex stories than they can read themselves, so continue to read to them throughout their entire elementary years.  Parents who do so are expanding their children’s vocabularies, giving them a sense of what books and stories are about, and providing enriching conversation opportunities.  Not only are you helping your child become more successful in school, but you are also providing a nurturing atmosphere which will lead to a closer relationship in your family life!


Is there anything that I need to do before I read a book aloud to my child?


Yes, you and your child should look at the cover and title together.  The title often gives readers the main idea of the book.  Readers (you and/or your child) should look through the story trying to predict what the story will be about.  As you read, you and/or your child can confirm your predictions or change them as you find out more information.  These quick discussions improve comprehension and model what your child should do when he/she is reading independently.


What are some things we could talk about after we finish reading a story together?


In order to understand a story, readers should know when and where the story takes place (setting), something about the main characters, the problem that happens in the story, and how that problem is solved.  Readers should know if the story is fiction or nonfiction and something about the type of story (genre). It is also important for a reader to connect the story to his/her life.  Perhaps it reminds you or your child of something that happened to you or something that you’ve read about before.  Readers should make this important connection for reading to be meaningful.


What should my child read aloud to me?


Children need practice reading aloud.  However, they should read aloud books or stories that are not too difficult for them.  If a child misses more than 5 words on a page, then that book is too difficult.  Often children bring home books they have read at school to practice at home.  Rereading these stories is an excellent way to help your child become a more fluent reader.  (We tell students that their reading should sound like talking!)  If the story is a long one, then you could read a page and then your child read a page.  You could also have your child read aloud along with you.  Just like in sports or music, the more children practice the better they become.  Your encouragement and support are so powerful!


What should I do when my child comes to a word he/she doesn’t know?


Students are taught strategies to use when they come to an unknown word. 

  • One of my favorite sayings is: Good readers are good thinkers.  Children who think about what is happening in a story often figure out the tricky word by using meaning. 
  • We tell students to think of a word that would sound right and look right in that sentence. 
  • Students are also taught to look for parts of a word they know (referred to as “chunks”).  For example, in the word “boycott,” students would know the word “boy” and possibly the word “cot.” 
  • Sometimes when a reader gets “stuck,” it’s helpful for them to go back to the beginning of the sentence and reread it.            

If your child is not trying any of these strategies when coming to an unknown word, then you may remind them to try one.  Our goal is for the child to have a plan and use it without teacher or parent reminders.  However, your child may need our help to get to that level of independence, so go ahead and suggest something for them to try.  (Please don’t only suggest “sounding it out!”)


Don’t make a child try to figure out each and every word, if your child is tired or getting frustrated.  Too much wait time will cause a reader to lose the meaning of the story and, thus, not understand the story.


What if my child wants to look at the pictures?


GREAT!  What a great source for meaning!  Readers are encouraged to use pictures to gain information in the story, so encourage the use of pictures!

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