Reading Tips

Ways to Help Your Child with Reading at Home

Setting the Atmosphere

  • Help your child find a quiet, comfortable place to read.

  • Have your child see reading being modeled.

  • Read aloud to your child.  Reread favorite stories.  Read with your child.

  • Discuss the stories you read together.

  • Recognize the value of silent reading.  Keep reading time enjoyable.

Responding to Errors in Reading

  • Give your child wait time of 5 to 10 seconds.  See what he attempts to do to help himself.
  • Ask: "What would make sense there?"
  • Ask: "What do you think that word could be?"
  • Say: "Go back to the beginning (of the sentence) and try again."
  • Say: "Put in a word that would make sense there."
  • Say: "You read that word before on another page.  See if you can find it."
  • Say: "Look at how that word begins.  Start it out and keep reading."
  • Tell your child the word.


Focus on what your child is attempting to do.  Remain loving and supportive.  When your child is having difficulty and trying to work out the trouble spots, comments such as the following are suggested:

  • "Good for you.  I like the way you tried to work that out."
  • "That was a good try.  Yes, that word would make sense there."
  • "I like the way you looked at the picture to help yourself."
  • "I like the way you went back to the beginning of the sentence and tried that again.  That's what good readers do."
  • "You are becoming a good reader.  I bet you're proud of yourself."

Source:  Invitations by Regie Routman

Tips for Reading with Children

Before Reading:

  • Find the front and back of the book.

  • Talk about the story by taking a picture walk and making predictions.

  • Find where to begin reading and which way you go when you read.

During Reading:

  • Talk about the pictures.

  • Point to the words as you read.

  • Talk about the pattern (if the book has one).

After Reading:

  • Count the words on the page.

  • Count the letters in each word.

  • Find letters.

  • Find familiar words.

  • Have the child retell the story.

Note:  Do NOT use all of these during the reading of one book.  Choose one or two strategies per book.

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Picture Walk

A "picture walk" is a way for a child to get ready to read a new unfamiliar book.  It is helpful to look at the front of the book (title and illustration), think about it and make a quick prediction of what the book is about.  Thinking about what kind of book it is helps the reader prepare for reading.  We talk about whether it is a story book (narrative/fiction) or an information book (expository/non-fiction), am alphabet book or number book, etc.  The title can be read to the child.  Very often titles can be tricky to read.  The child should be doing much of the talking; it can be a conversation.  This does not need to take a long time.

The child should then look through the whole book and talk about the pictures.  Reading is easier when we have the oral language in our mind to think about the book.  When there are things a child might not know about or know the name of, such as a crane, it is better to tell the child the new vocabulary.  It is very difficult for beginning readers to read words they have never heard before.  Remember this does not need to take a long time; 1 minute or less depending on the length of the book.

Picture Cues

Picture cues are a very important part of learning to read; they help develop comprehension strategies.  Books are designed for the students to look at the pictures and think about what is happening in the books they will read.  Never cover the pictures!  We are teaching the students to look at the pictures and check to see if the words "look right" and "sound right" to match the picture.  They will be using the beginning sound and chunks in words to check the word.  The picture and the word are used together to help the child develop independent reading strategies.

Retelling Stories

Asking your child to retell a story is one way to see if s/he understood the story.  Many children are good at decoding (figuring out) the words but are not thinking about or understanding what they read.  Reading consists of both figuring out the words and understanding the story.

Retelling is a skill that must be taught and practiced in order for children to do it successfully.  Describing for you how I have gone about teaching your child to retell a story will give you a better understanding of what retelling is and can help you to practice this important skill as your child reads and/or listens to stories at home.

When I want to make sure a child has understood a story s/he has read or listened to, I say: "Start at the beginning and tell me in your own words what happened in this story."

If the child has read the story out loud to me, I change this prompt slightly and say: "Pretend that I have never heard this story.  Start at the beginning and tell me in your own words what happened in the story."

Here are the things I look for as I listen to a child retell a story:

  • The child should tell most of the main events from the story and should tell the events in the correct sequence.

  • The child should include most of the important details and may even use some key language or vocabulary from the story.

  • The child should refer to all significant characters by their specific names when given.  (Rather than referring to characters using pronouns like he, she, it or using generic labels such as the boy, the girl, the dog, etc.)

  • The child should not require many questions from me in order to give a complete retelling of the story.  (i.e., I shouldn't have to keep asking questions such as, "Okay, what happened next?" or "What happened at the end?")

  • If questions are needed, the child should be able to give complete and accurate answers to the questions.

  • The retelling should be accurate and may even include information that goes beyond what the author stated specifically.  (For example, the author may not have directly said that a character was happy at the end of the story, but the child what able to figure it out based on information the author did give and included that information in his/her retelling.)

When taught and practiced repeatedly, first graders CAN retell stories amazingly well.  Of course, when teaching the children how to retell stories, I use more "kid-friendly" language that I have used for you here.  After some direct teaching, a great deal of modeling and lots of practice, most children can gain an understanding of what I expect what I ask them to retell a story.

Please help your child to practice the skill of retelling by asking him/her to retell the story in books read and/or listened to at home.  With frequent practice, support and gentle reminders about the components listed above, you should notice your child getting better and better at retelling stories!