If you are worried about reading with your kids, don’t. Teachers are very good at helping kids learn how to read the sounds the letters make, and they will know what to do when school starts again.
The important thing to do is to have a reading time with your kids everyday that lasts about 20 minutes. If your kids don’t want to read, it is ok if you read and they follow along. Hearing the sounds and seeing the letters is good for them.
If you don’t feel comfortable with that, you can get recordings of books through several sources; ask your kids’ teacher for ideas. Try Youtube and Audible, from Amazon.com. If there is a library you can use, they are the best place for free recordings that are good quality.
Any practice will help them. There is no way you can hurt your kids with reading practice unless you try too hard to be their teacher and they start to not enjoy reading. It upsets kids too much when they make mistakes with a parent. Somehow, it is easier with the teacher. Also, teachers know what mistakes are normal and how to fix them or when to ask for help. Parents worry, and kids feel it.
It is ok if you make mistakes. It is good for kids to see that adults make mistakes. Seeing you make mistakes will make it easier for them to try hard things.
If you are a bilingual family, this is a good time to help your kids read in their home language so they grow up feeling comfortable with it. That’s important, even if English is their school language.
This is also a good time to share stories and poetry from your home language and country. Knowing these things will help your children feel attached to that culture, which is important.
If you think your kid says something wrong, try to ask a question that will make him or her figure out the answer. Try not to say your kid is wrong.
With very little kids, you will need to sit and read with them. Older kids can use the questions below to take notes in a notebook and then discuss their ideas. I have used this plan with kids as young as 7, and they loved writing in their notebooks! I put the questions on a little card that they could put in front of them, and if they had trouble, I would point to different questions for them to think about.
I have also used this plan with kids as old as 18. Writing the notebooks helps them think and remember as they read.
They don’t need to do all of the questions.
The techniques below are in order from the easiest to the hardest, or concrete to abstract.
Predicting is making a guess about what the book will be about by looking at the pictures, title, and layout of the book.
Question: What do you think this story is going to be about? Why?
Monitoring meaning is about helping the kid understand what is happening in the story. You can talk to them about the story as they go.
Questions: What is happening in this piece of writing? What confuses me, and how can I understand? What words are new, and how can I guess what they mean?
Note about new words: It’s ok just to explain the meanings of new words. If neither you nor your kid knows the word, try not to stop and look it up unless you don’t understand what is happening. It’s better not to break up the “flow” of the story.
Readers are supposed to ask questions as they read to help them make sure they understand.
Questions: What questions before, during and after reading can deepen my understanding of the text? What questions can focus my attention on vital parts of the text?
Visualizing is mostly about picturing what is happening in the story. It is the most important thing. Most kids like to draw, so this isn’t a problem. They should be asked to draw what they imagine as they read. Be sure to ask them questions.
If they are reading about a new time or place, help them look up pictures and videos on the Internet.
Questions: What do I see, hear, touch, taste and smell as I read?
What do I imagine as I read?
People can understand remember what they read better if they can connect it to what they already know. Try to help your kid connect new information and ideas to other things. It can be real people, stories, T.V. shows, songs…anything!
Questions: Can I make connections to other texts, the world and myself? Where can I get the information I need to understand the text?
An “inference” or inferring means to figure out what the author means but does not clearly state. The reader has to make an “educated guess” about these ideas.
Question: What do I know about this text that it doesn’t tell me directly?Determining Importance
No one can remember everything that they read, so it is good to think about what the “take away” is. This can be different for each person. Talking about this is good because usually different people remember different things, which are interesting to hear.
Question: What ideas do the author want me to remember?
To “synthesize” something is to mix together different things to make something new. In reading, “synthesizing” means to put together everything we think and feel to get understanding about the book. Some of these questions are hard, and it is ok not to do them all. The last question, about techniques, is almost impossible unless the kid has learned “literary techniques” in school, so that one might need to be left out altogether.
Questions: How does this text make me feel?
What is the author trying to do?
How does the author use different techniques effectively?
Note: This is a shortened version of a previous post, Helping Children & Teens (and maybe you) Become Better Readers