Our kids spend most of their days in school, learning how to read, write, and solve math problems that I barely understand. When my son asks for my help in math, I usually send his homework back with question marks next to several of the equations. When it comes to reading, however, I’m a better resource. Not only because I genuinely enjoy reading, but also because I’ve asked my son’s teachers what we can do to help encourage and support his reading. Here are a few tips and requests I’ve gotten from teachers along the way.
1. Make sure your child reads every day. My son’s kindergarten teacher asked that we read with him every day. His first grade teacher upped the ante by asking us to have him read at least twenty minutes every night. Teachers know that the best way to promote reading fluency is to practice, and they look to parents to help continue the lessons learned in class. Read to younger kids until they’re comfortable on their own; stay nearby as early elementary school age children are reading so they can ask for help with the tricky words; and set timers for older kids so they read independently.
2. Help your children choose books that are a little bit challenging. Some kids gravitate toward books that are easy to read and that’s fine. But teachers know that in order to improve, kids can’t just read the books they can race through. Instead, teachers want kids to pick books that are at or slightly above their reading level. If you don’t know what that is, ask. Your child’s teacher knows and he or she is happy to give you that information. Use it to encourage your child to stretch her reading muscles.
3. Help your child make connections between books and real life. Reading a story is one thing, understanding it and making connections between the text and other situations is another. Teachers love it when parents help develop that skill. You know your child best and know what challenges they face, what trips they’ve taken, what life experiences they’ve had, so you’re in the best position to help your child make connections between stories and the real world. When they can do that, they’ll not only gain a deeper understanding of literature, but also develop their problem-solving and social skills. It’s a win-win.
4. Read homework assignments and teacher notes. There’s a reason teachers send this stuff home, whether it’s on paper or on the class internet site. Please don’t ignore it.
5. Model reading. Even if you’re not a big reader, try to model good reading habits for your children. Dedicate time to read when all the screens are off and everyone can enjoy a good book. Talk about what you’re reading with your children (unless it’s Fifty Shades of Grey!) and let them see that reading is important for both kids and adults.
6. Make books available in your home. Not everyone has the space or resources for a huge home library, but even a few books in your child’s room can make all the difference. Use the public or school library to borrow books — that way you’ll always have something new to offer a bored kid.
7. Don’t compare your child to anyone else. Your child is unique. Comparing her to her peers or even her siblings isn’t very useful. Children learn to read at different times so pushing your son or daughter to be like another child will only frustrate both of you. That being said, if you’re concerned that your child isn’t meeting appropriate milestones, don’t hesitate to talk to his or her teacher. Which leads to the final thing teachers wish parents would do …
8. Reach out if you have questions. Teachers love what they do and they’ve trained long and hard to be able to educate your kids. They care deeply that their students are successful. If you have concerns about your child’s reading, or questions about how to help him read at home, ask the teacher. They’re happy to offer advice and find ways to work together to help your child reach his potential.