Picture this: Your child comes home and says, “My teacher says my homework is to read with you.”
Do you sit down, listen for a few minutes and think, What am I doing here exactly?
Supporting a young reader isn’t complicated, but we’re not born knowing how to do it. Most of us can’t remember learning how to read. So it’s helpful to have some ideas about how to help your child become a better reader.
Tip #1: Ask questions while you read together.
Why it helps: In order to read and understand a book, your child’s brain is working overtime. But they don’t realize that. You can make that thinking more visible and therefore, more likely to continue, by asking questions.
How to do it: Before you start reading “prime the pump” by asking things like:
What will this book help you learn?
What do you think this book will be about? Why do you think that?
What do you already know about these characters (this topic, this type of book)?
While you’re reading help your child think about how they’re reading:
What do you think will happen next? Why?
What are you picturing in your head?
What word was difficult on this page? How did you figure it out?
After you’re done reading help your child put it all together by asking:
What was this book (article, poem, paragraph) mostly about?
Tip #2: If your child is still sounding out longer words, cover each part of the word with your finger as she goes through each sound.
Why it helps: In order to read words, kids have to be able to put all the sounds together. So for example, the word “together” is actually “to—geth—er.” Some kids have a hard time doing this automatically. Covering up parts of the word helps them slow down and digest it bit by bit.
How to do it: When your child comes to a word she needs to sound out, pause and have her concentrate on each sound by covering up the other letters.
After she has mastered the word, have your child go back and reread the sentence from the beginning. That way she can hear how the word works in the sentence. In reading, slow and steady wins the race. Help your child learn to not rush through the tricky words.
Tip #3: Read aloud with your child.
Why it helps: When a knowledgeable reader (you) reads aloud alongside a beginning reader (your child), it helps them hear and understand how reading should sound. Think of yourself as the training wheels on a bicycle.
How to do it: Read slowly and with as much expression as you can. Invite your child to read along with you and match your tone. Sometimes when I’m doing this I’ll go silent for a phrase or two so I can hear my child try it on his own.
Tip #4: “Echo Read” with your child
Why it helps: Like reading aloud with your child, you are helping your child learn what fluent reading sounds like.
How to do it: Read a phrase or a sentence with as much expression as you can. Pay attention to punctuation. Then ask your child to “echo” it back to you, using the same tone and inflections. You can also do a combination where you read a sentence, you and your child read it together, and then your child reads the sentence on their own.
Once again, slow and steady. Sometimes struggling readers want to rush through and finish the book. But the goal is to practice reading skills, not to race through the book.
Tip #5: Ask your child to read and reread the same passage every day for a week.
Why it helps: Rereading helps beginning readers (and struggling readers) cement the reading skills they’ve learned and try out new ones. If they are always reading new material, they are always reading in a heightened sense of stress. No one likes that.
How to do it: Have your child select a short book (picture books work great for older kids) or even just a paragraph. Then ask them to read it and reread it once a day, each time trying to read with as much expression as they can. At first, they will concentrate on getting the right words. Then they can work on paying attention to punctuation. Next, they can think about making their voice match the meaning of the words better. By the end of the week, they should sound like they’re actually telling a story instead of reading.
Wondering what your child should sound like at this stage? Check out the Milestone videos on GreatSchools.org
Still have some questions? Talk to your child’s teacher to get some more tips.