What’s the best way parents can support their child’s reading growth at home? Read every night. That sounds simple enough but anyone who has had the “have you done your homework” conversation knows this can be easier said than done. Here are a few tips for success that can make reading every night a reality in your home.
Choose a 'Just Right' Book
To get the most out of independent reading time, children should be reading books at their reading level. I can sit down and flip through a copy of "The Odyssey" in Homer’s original Greek, but it doesn’t matter how expertly I flip the pages—I won’t understand a word I read. On the other hand, I can read "People" magazine, but I won’t be challenging my brain. To help your child pick a book that is not too hard, and not too easy, use the “Five Finger Rule.” Here’s how the “Five Finger Rule” works:
Have your child open a book to any page and read the page out loud.
Have them hold up one finger for every word they cannot pronounce or don’t understand.
If they hold up four or more fingers, the book is too hard for them at this time.
If they hold up 0-1 fingers, the book is too easy for them.
If they hold up 2-3 fingers, this book is just right for them.
Choose an Interesting Book
We want our kids to read classics and to read a wide variety of genres, but we also want them to read books they like. When starting out building your reading stamina, picking a book you are interested in is especially important. Do they like video games and action movies? Try the "Dog Tags" book series. Do they think horses are cool? Have them check out a book from the non-fiction section about different breeds of horses. If they read a few chapters and they really hate it, it’s ok for them to pick a new book (just monitor that your child doesn’t quit every book before finishing).
Habits for Success
You’ll get the best results when you set achievable goals and establish a system that works for your life. Try these tips for making reading a part of your evening routine:
Read at the same time and place every day. Encouraging your child to read while they eat a snack after school could potentially stick.
Read in the quietest place possible. Turn the television off and find a place to read that is not distracting.
Do your child have busy evenings? Encourage them to squeeze in reading while waiting around for events to start.
Ask Your Kids About What They Read
Some go-to questions for when your child is reading fiction include:
Who is the main character?
What is the main character’s problem? How do you know?
How is he/she trying to solve their problem? How do you know?
Go-to questions for non-fiction include:
What did you learn about the topic?
What do you think are the main points the author wanted you to know?
What was the big idea in what you read today?
Hope you find these tips helpful in encouraging your child to read everyday!
Eva Kohlmoos is a fourth-grade English language arts teacher at East End Prep, a public charter school in east Nashville, Tennessee. Eva began her teaching career in 2010 in San Antonio, Texas, teaching fifth-graders in a self-contained classroom. She also served as the Tennessee Department of Education's Teacher Ambassador from 2012-2014. Prior to teaching, Eva worked on Teach For America's ...