What sounds does “ch” make? Is the “a” in that word pronounced like apple or like angel? What happens when you add “s” to the end of a word?
When a child is learning to read, many parents have the advantage of already having an expertise in the subject matter. However, most parents are not educators, which means that even though we know how to read, we don’t necessarily know about the educational theories and best practices that go into teaching literacy. This can make it difficult to know whether or not our kids are having trouble.
Many parents want to know what they can do in the child’s day-to-day life to encourage literacy and improve reading comprehension. Good news: reading instruction isn’t limited to educators! Parents can implement a few simple strategies to help their kids read with more understanding and retention, no matter what their child’s reading level is. A kid who is excelling at reading can benefit from these strategies as much as a kid who is struggling–it’s just a matter of individualizing these tips to each child’s unique needs.
Tip #1: Ask questions about what your child is experiencing.
Truly engaging your child in conversation throughout the day can have a great impact on his or her reading comprehension skills. In addition to asking your child questions about what she is thinking or feeling, ask her to describe things that require both imagination and attention to concrete detail. What was the funniest thing that happened at school today? What do you usually see on your morning bus ride? Have you ever seen a dog with stripes? Can you think of another way to describe your teacher besides “nice”? What do you mean when you say that your friend is funny–what does she do that makes you laugh?
Tip #2: Ask questions about what your child is reading.
You can apply the question-asking strategy to what your child is reading independently or with you. When you read a story to him, do a quick comprehension check every once in a while to confirm his understanding and engagement. What do you think Harry felt when Hermione said that to him? What do you think Hagrid meant when he said, “I shouldn’t have said that”? What would you do if you met a giant dog with three heads who seemed hungry enough to eat you up?
Tip #3: Create opportunities for your child to create mental images to match what you’re discussing.
The imagery-language connection is a person’s ability to assign mental images to words. A child who struggles in this area is likely to have difficulty following instructions, understanding complicated conversations, and making sound decisions, but there are so many opportunities for parents to help children practice this connection throughout the day. What image pops into your mind when you hear me say I’ve got lots of work to do today? What do you imagine happens in the kitchen after you go to bed at night? After reading a scene from a book, ask: What do you think that looked like?
Tip #4: Be playful in your interactions with written words and instructions.
Maintaining a playful attitude can help with morale and keep your child from even realizing that you’re doing educational activities. Playing with your child can help them have more stamina than if you just sat them down in front of flashcards or a book and asked them to read to you. This kind of playfulness can make or break your own attitude, too.
Tip #5: Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.
Asking the teacher about how your child is performing in school is always a great idea, and not just during an annual parent-teacher conference. An occasional conversation with your child’s teacher can help you know what specialized attention your child might need.
Sometimes, you need more than just the traditional academic set-up of having a teacher at school and supportive parents at home. Read Smart is an organization that specializes in helping kids who are behind in their reading skills or who simply want to get ahead with reading. With individualized strategies and a warm, caring, and fun environment, we place kids in position to be ahead for the rest of their academic and professional lives. Typical results include advancing an entire grade level in 3 to 4 months and two grade levels in 6 to 8 months! Each tutoring session at Read Smart includes one-on-one time with teachers who have Elementary Education Degrees.
If you have questions about your child’s reading skills, contact Read Smart for a FREE reading evaluation that can help you determine what your next steps should be.