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Helping Your Child Learn to Read: A Parent Tip Sheet
Helping your child learn to read is one of the most important ways that you can support his or her
education. Studies show that parental involvement is key to student success. Children who read outside
of school as well as in school, are much more likely to succeed.
The following tips are intended to assist you in helping your child become a skilled, confident reader:
1. Read to your child for at least 15 minutes each day.
2. When your child is reading, use a "Pause, Prompt, Praise" approach:
a. Pause: If your child stops at a difficult word, then pause briefly. Wait for a few moments
(count to five, silently and slowly) to give your child the opportunity to figure out the word.
b. Prompt: If your child cannot read the word or does not read it correctly, ask him or her to
"Try again" or ask "What word would make sense?" or say "Look at the picture". If your child still
cannot read the word correctly after two different prompts, say the word and ask him or her to
repeat it. Continue with the reading.
c. Praise: When your child reads the difficult word correctly, praise him or her for reading the word
without help.
3. Choose books that are interesting to your child and that are "just right" — not too hard, but not too easy.
4. If asked by your child to read a favourite book over and over, do so.
5. Talk about reading with your child. Before reading a book, look at the pictures with your child and
ask him or her to predict what the story might be about. Talk about your child’s favourite books
or characters.
Talk about different ways that a story might have ended.
6. Let your child see you reading novels, the newspaper or other texts. When children see their parents do
something, they interpret it to be a valuable activity.
7. Read to your child books that were your favourites when you were a child, and talk about why
you loved them.
8. Ask your child to picture the story as you read it.
9. Encourage your child to write about the stories that you have read together. Writing is an excellent
support to reading.
10. Play letter and word games like Scrabble.
11. Encourage your child to "read" to you, even if he or she is not yet old enough to actually read the words
on the page and is just following the pictures. This important activity, generally believed to be a step
to early reading, will help your child to build confidence and an understanding about stories.
12. Create a home library or visit the public library regularly. Provide a variety of different reading
materials: books, comics, newspaper, recipe books, computer software and an encyclopedia.
13. Point out words on street signs, cereal boxes, packaging for toys, etc.
14. Practise word solving strategies: look at the first letter of a word, reread, sound out words or skip
a difficult word and read to the end of a sentence for clues as to what the word might be.
15. Show your child how much you value school and learning. Visit your child’s class and talk to the
teacher about his/her reading progress.
16. Do not stop reading to your child when he/she learns to read. There is much value to be gained from
reading to your child until he/she reaches the teen years.
17. Take books wherever you go: to the restaurant, to visit relatives, in the car, on the bus, to the doctor’s
18. Ask your child to read the recipe for you when you are cooking.
Assessment: Running Records © Queen's Printer for Ontario, 2003
15+ Ways to Boost School Success
Whether your child is starting preschool or third grade, these little strategies can make a huge difference.
By Diane Debrovner
Be a Strong Support
1. Insist on a good night's sleep. If your child has been staying up later during the summer, start enforcing an earlier bedtime two weeks before school starts. Kids need their rest in order to concentrate and follow the rules at school.
2. Check the backpack. Track down all the notes and permission slips that come home from the teacher, rather than relying on your child to give them to you. It can be embarrassing for your little one if he is the only student who didn't bring in a special snack or wear a certain outfit planned for the day.
3. Always go to open-school night. If you have older kids, don't assume it's not important this time around because you already know what first grade is like, Dr. Ramey says. You may miss out on key information, including how the teacher likes to be contacted. Your child (and the teacher) may also feel hurt that you skipped it.
4. Know the daily routine. Ask for a weekly schedule of gym, science, music, and art classes. You'll be able to help your child prepare for the day and ask more specific questions about what happened at school.
5. Talk to other parents. Because it's sometimes hard to know whether your child's perception of what's happening in the classroom is accurate, it's helpful to have a few parents whom you can always call to touch base.
6. Volunteer whenever you can. "Even though I work full-time, I go on field trips, help with class parties, and read to the class twice a month," Shinberger says. "Fortunately, I am blessed with a great boss."
7. Show you care. No matter how busy you are, let your child know that you're interested in what he's learning.
Encourage Learning
8. Go on family adventures. Before school starts and on weekends, visit museums, libraries, and other interesting places and encourage exploration. Occasionally, while you're there, you might say, "Let's pretend I'm the teacher and you're the student," Dr. Ramey suggests. Later, you might ask, "What was something really interesting that you learned?"
9. Play board games. Not only are they fun, but they help your child get used to following specific rules. Before you start, read the rules out loud and ask your child to repeat them. If you're not sure whether something is allowed, go back and double-check. "My 7-year-old daughter, Connor, has always loved playing hangman, and it's a great way for her to practice reading and spelling," says Darcie Shinberger, of Macomb, Illinois. If you keep a pad of paper in your purse, you can play anywhere.
10. Read together. Kids benefit enormously when their parents continue to read with them at home every day. They also like it when their parents read the same book they're reading in school, Dr. Ramey says. You might say, "Let me know when there's a good book you're reading, because I'd like to read it too."
Encourage Social Skills
11. Teach your child to ask for what he needs. It's essential for students to be able to tell the teacher, "I don't understand," says Parents adviser Sharon L. Ramey, Ph.D., director of the Georgetown University Center on Health and Education, in Washington, D.C. One way to teach this lesson: Slip in some more-sophisticated words when you're reading a book to your child, and say, "When we read tonight, I'm going to use some new words and I want you to stop and ask me if you want to know about a word." Let your child know that teachers like to have children ask them questions about new words too.
12. Focus on manners and social skills. Expect your child to say "please," "thank you," and "excuse me." If he's a first-time student, help him practice sharing, taking turns, and standing in line. You might role-play and say, "What if you and another student both want to play with the same blocks. What could you do?"
13. Rehearse at home. "My son, Jack, has a tough time speaking to a group, so we sometimes practice show-and-tell at home. I pretend I'm his teacher, and his twin sister pretends she's another kid in the class, and he goes to the front of the room and does his presentation," says Leslie Lido, of Merrick, New York.
Set up a Learning Environment
14. Get organized. Find a specific place to put scissors, paper, crayons, and other supplies your child uses, and help her get in the habit of putting them back where they belong the way she'll have to do in her classroom. The same goes for shoes and jackets; when you can't find them in the morning, the day quickly gets off to a bad start.
15. Give them room to work. Even kindergartners need a regular spot to do their homework where they can sit up straight, spread out their papers, and not be distracted. If your child doesn't have a desk in her room, sitting at the kitchen table is much better than slouching on the couch.
Teacher Tips: Helping Academic Success
1. Look over the work your child brings home, and ask him to explain what he did. This will help reinforce the concepts he learned. - Penny Zaniewski, Lit'l Scholar Academy, Las Vegas, Nevada
2. Help your child find age-appropriate books about the topic that he's most interested in, whether it's sports, dinosaurs, or dogs. - Greg Lawler, Scholls Heights School, Beaverton, Oregon
3. Celebrate your child's successes, but don't overdo it -- or else your child will want to do well just to earn praise, rather than for the personal feeling of accomplishment. Try to start compliments with, "You should be so proud of yourself because ..." or "You must be so happy that you could ..." - Marge Harvan, Weaver Child Development Center and Christian Primary School, Canton, Ohio
Additional contributions to this article from the editors of Parents magazine.
Originally published in the August 2004 issue of Parents magazine and the August 2003 issue of Parents magazine.
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