Parenting 101 for elementary school parents
Q: I thought I was well qualified for parenthood. I graduated from college, married an intelligent person, read all the right books, attended parenting classes, and consulted with friends and family about preschool programs. I thought my child was well prepared for kindergarten, but at my son’s parent-teacher conference in November, I found out that the son who was wonderful and gifted in my eyes was not on track to be reading in January, like the rest of his classmates. Someone forgot to tell me that kindergarten was the new first grade. Do you have any suggestions for what I can do to improve my child's reading skills?
A: There are many parent-tested tips for improviing your child's reading skills in grades K–3:
- Find a time daily when everyone stops, drops and reads for 30 minutes.
- Use technology to encourage reading.
- Meet with your child’s teacher to clarify specific areas where he might need additional support, such as comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, phonics and phonemic awareness.
- Limit access to television and video games on school nights.
- Obtain a library card and encourage your child to sign out an equal number of videos and games as books.
- Model a two-way conversation by having your child discuss her school day, lunch and after school activities.
- Expose your child to a variety of reading genres—fiction, nonfiction, poetry, online newspapers and magazines and comics.
- Make reading fun and exciting by dramatizing the characters. Replace character names with your child's name.
- Let your child create a picture walk of the book and predict what he thinks the story is about.
- Ask your child questions about the book’s theme, characters, setting, ending, and how she might respond in a similar situation. Encourage her to think of an alternate title or ending.
- Help your child to select just-right books by using the five-finger test. If he misses zero to two words per page, it might be too easy. If he misses three words it is a just right book. If he misses five words or more per page the book might be too difficult.
- Take turns reading with your child. You read a paragraph or page and then let her read one.
- Let your child attempt to figure out an unfamiliar word by looking at the pictures for clues and looking for a word he recognizes.
- Keep a supply of paper, pens, pencils and markers available so that your child can create books and journals.
One parent we worked with told us that her son, as part of the college application process, wrote an essay about an influential person in his life: his mother. He wrote about the time he spent with her for one hour, four days a week, during a three-month period, using some of the strategies mentioned above. By the beginning of first grade, he was reading at a fourth grade level. He was accepted into 9 of the 13 colleges he applied to using that essay. Working with your child to help develop her reading skills will be worth the effort, resources and time.
Charniece Holmes is a school connections coordinator with Family Connections. Her children are in college, but she remembers the joys and challenges of being a working parent with school-age children.