As a parent, what is my role, and what can I do to best support my child’s education?
Page 5: How Can I Support My Child in Reading?
You might be in a situation where your child gets reading instruction online or at school but is expected to practice what she’s learned at home. Maybe your child’s school has sent work to your home. In either case, your role is simply to support that instruction.
This doesn’t have to be hard! Below are some quick and easy tips you can take to get your child reading. These tips can be helpful for all children, including those who don’t like to read or who have reading difficulties.
Have your child read a little each day. It’s recommended that kids read for about 30 minutes each day. This can be less for younger kids or those who have difficulty reading. It can be more for those who like to read.
Let your child listen to books. Listening to books still helps your child learn new words, increases her knowledge, and helps her understand what she hears. Options include audio books, kids reading to each other, and online videos of children’s authors or actors reading.
Think about reading options. There are plenty of reading options to choose from: Besides books, there are short stories, poems, graphic novels, magazines, online articles, and even recipes. Think outside the box!
Embed reading in everyday activities. Take advantage of reading opportunities throughout the day. For example, you might read instructions for projects or emails and texts from family or teachers.
Supporting Learning at Home
Although this page is focused on reading, you might also consider how to:
- Get your child ready to learn. For more information on getting your child ready to learn, see Page 2.
- Set routines and behavior expectations. For more information on how to do this, see Page 3.
- Find out what your child should be learning. For more about how to find out what your child should be learning, see Page 4.
- Balance learning with social and emotional needs. For more on how to support your child socially and emotionally, see Page 7.
Of course, supporting your child’s reading also might create some challenges. Never fear. We’ll go over a few of the most common below.
It’s important to remember that children develop at different stages, including how they learn to read. Just because your child doesn’t like reading or finds it difficult, doesn’t mean she isn’t trying hard or is unwilling to learn. She may simply require different supports. Here are a few things you can do to support your child in reading.
Be positive and encouraging. Reading isn’t easy! Think of all the words that we, as adults, just know. Good reading takes time and practice. As your child builds his reading foundation, it’s important to praise him for trying hard and doing his best.
Break reading time into smaller sections. Rather than reading for 30 minutes straight, break reading time into two 15-minute periods. This can be helpful for younger children, kids with reading difficulties, or those who have trouble focusing for longer periods of time.
Suggest that your child takes a break. Once a child becomes frustrated during a reading activity, she is more likely to make mistakes. A short break will often help.
Choose a book that interests your child. From fairy tales to coming-of-age novels, there are books out there for all children. Letting your child pick out a book that appeals to her is a great way to support her interests, build her vocabulary, and get her excited about reading. Just make sure the book your child chooses matches her reading level.
It’s okay to be silly. If your child becomes frustrated during a reading activity, try switching it up. Read a sentence with him out loud in a silly voice. Ask him to read loud like a bear or soft like a mouse. Adding in a silly twist can help a reluctant reader realize that reading can be fun.
Learning to read is an exciting journey! Take a deep breath and remember, you don’t have to be an expert to successfully support your child while she learns to read. Here are a few things you can do to help your child in the early stages of reading.
Have fun with phonics. As a beginning reader, your child will learn that letters and groups of letters make sounds. To practice, point to a letter and ask your child, “What sound does this letter make?” The letter S says “sss” like sun; M says “mmm” like milk. As your child learns new letter sounds, try coming up with fun activities to practice so he will be excited to learn more. For a video on how to creatively practice phonics with your child, click here.
Example: Point to the letter M and ask your child to think of words that start with the “mmm” sound. Your child might say milk or money. That’s great! You might also ask her to find objects around the house that start with the “mmm” sound. This practice can be especially helpful when working on sounds that your child consistently struggles with.
Play with words. One way preschoolers and kindergartners get ready to read is by noticing words, rhymes, and sounds they hear in everyday speech and while reading. For more ideas on how to play with words, click here.
Example: When reading a book that contains rhyming words, ask your child to identify the rhymes and come up with other words that rhyme with those words.
Sound out words. Sounding out words (sometimes called decoding) allows your child to read unfamiliar words. She may have memorized simple words like it or is, but as she learns new letter sounds, she can sound out new words. This takes a lot of practice, patience, and encouragement. For more activities to help your child with sounding out words, click here.
Example: If your child is struggling with the word mud point to the word. Ask her to sound it out, “mmm” “uuu” “ddd.” Now ask her to say it fast. Mud.
Talk about the book. As you read a story to your child, ask questions about it and listen to your child’s responses. If the book has pictures, ask your child to identify objects and items in the pictures. For more information on how to talk about a book, click here.
Example: Imagine that you and your child are reading a book about a family. Looking at a page that has a picture of a woman on it, you ask, “What is this?” while pointing at the woman. The child says, “Mama,” and you follow with “That’s right. This is the mother. Can you say mother?”
Kids who read slowly may be so focused on figuring out the words that they don’t understand what they read. The goal is to get them to read faster and with fewer mistakes (known as fluency). Here are some things you can do to help.
Sit with your child and read. Read a sentence or a paragraph aloud to your child. This provides an example of good reading. Next, ask your child to read the same sentence or paragraph. For ideas on how to sit and read with your child, click here.
Make sure the book isn’t too hard. Use easier passages to practice reading. This will keep your child from growing frustrated. Your child can read harder passages as he becomes a better reader.
Encourage your child to practice. Have your child read a short passage or paragraph more than once—but no more than three or four times. Of course, this depends on the age of your child. This provides your child with practice—the more she reads, the better she gets. Practice makes perfect!
Have your child point to words as she reads. If your child is making a lot of mistakes, sometimes it’s something simple like losing her place. Encourage her to point to words as she reads, especially if she is reading a new book or sentence.
Help with hard words. When your child struggles with a word, help him sound out the word or tell him the word.
Ask questions. Your child might be reading a word wrong because of a simple mistake. If she makes an error while reading, ask her questions such as “What does that word say?” or “Does that make sense?” Beginning readers often make simple mistakes as they read. If you understand where your child is making them, you can help her. To watch a parent ask her child questions while he reads, click here.
Just because a child reads fairly well, it doesn’t mean that he understands what he’s reading. Here are some activities to help.
Retell or summarize a story. After reading a story, ask your child to tell the story back to you. You could also ask your child to summarize the story, which is simply telling a shortened version of it. To make it fun, have your child retell or summarize the story to a sibling, pet, or even a stuffed animal. When retelling a story, make sure your child identifies the characters, settings, and sequence of events. Click here for more information to help your child retell a story. When summarizing a story, make sure your child identifies the main ideas and supporting details. To watch a parent help her child summarize a story, click here.
Read with a partner. You and your child can take turns reading a brief text out loud, discussing and answering questions about the text as you go. For more information on partner reading, click here.
Ask and answer questions. Encourage your child to ask and answer her own questions about a text she has just read. Click here to learn more about asking and answering questions.
Learn new words. If you child doesn’t know the meaning of important words in a text, he may have trouble understanding what he reads. Click here to watch a parent help her son with new words as he reads.
Identify the main idea. Stop your child after one or two paragraphs and ask her to tell you the main idea of what she read. Learn more about identifying the main idea by clicking here.
Helpful Reading Resources
For more ideas about how to support reading, check out the following resource.
How Can I Help My Teen with Their Reading Skills in Different Subjects?. Created by REL Pacific, this short and handy document offers three clearly-written, concise strategies for vocabulary development, reading motivation, and deeper discussions of content-area texts.
Supporting Your Child’s Reading at Home. These resources, created by the Institute of Education Sciences/REL Southeast, offer activities and videos with information about how families can support children’s reading. These activities are appropriate to use with children in kindergarten through 2nd grade.
Tips for Supporting Reading Skills at Home. This document created by the Institute of Education Sciences and made available by the What Works Clearinghouse offers four tips for supporting reading at home. These tips are appropriate to use with children in kindergarten through 3rd grade.