Reading proficiently helps children as they begin to read to learn. As children enter higher grade levels, reading becomes the fundamental conduit for learning; children will be responsible for reading textbook lessons and answering questions related to each lesson. In addition, they will apply their understanding into written essays or lengthier research papers.
If children are struggling with reading and writing at an early age, additional help at home could boost both their confidence and their fluency. Here’s how children can improve reading and writing skills at home, according to an expert.
Apply School Tips to the Home Lessons
Mike Schmoker, a former teacher and administrator turned lecturer, wrote an article for Edweek about how educators can help children with reading and writing. Schmoker examined three key tips for improving these skills:
- Use reading as the foundation
- Discuss the content
- Apply the lesson into writing
Reading is the Foundation
Schmoker expanded on each tip to further illustrate how teachers can help children in both reading fluency and writing, too. Per his article, reading should be the foundation; this means that teachers—and parents at home—should help children enjoy reading.
This doesn’t dovetail into finding books of interest per se. Reading is the foundation for learning. Schmoker emphasizes for teachers to review difficult words and their meaning; this can help children better understand text.
In addition, Schmoker recommends that teachers focus on a prompt about the text or book. However, prompts for fiction and nonfiction will differ. He recommends nonfiction prompts that encourage students to analyze and make comparisons. In contrast, Schmoker recommends fiction prompts that encourage character analysis.
He also encourages teachers to read aloud. Parents can—and should—heed this advice, too. Another important tip from Schmoker is that students should learn and practice finding important text in the book to underline for discussions. Parents can help children read through text and help them understand which points are the most important related to a prompt.
Discuss the Content
Schmoker’s article is aimed at educators. His advice to teachers is to pair up students for discussions where they talk about their notes and thoughts related to the prompt. At home, children might only be working with parents. However, parents can focus on a specific prompt and help children talk through their thoughts.
Apply the Analysis Into Writing
Once children have highlighted or made notes about important pieces of information from the text that relate to the prompt and have discussed those notes, they can begin applying it into writing. However, Schmoker explains that ‘short bursts of writing’ can mix in with the discussions. In this way, children aren’t necessarily sitting down to write full essays or a longer paper. Instead, they break down arguments into different writing phases which Schmoker explains then lead to a full class discussion.
In addition, Schmoker emphasizes the need of teachers to help children understand the basics of writing—creating an introduction and outlining their paper/essay/assignment and adding quotes to support the argument. Parents can help children at home by teaching them the basics of creating an online before writing and helping them work on an impactful intro.
Children are Never Too Old to Listen to a Story
Parents can apply Schmoker’s tips and techniques as they work with children at home. Younger children, though, might only be writing very basic responses related to reading assignments, while older children might need to expand on their ideas and include quotes from a story or book to support their arguments.
Schmoker advised that educators should read aloud to students, and this advice also is helpful for parents who are trying to work with their child on reading and writing at home. Reading aloud to children can help them better understand emotions in the story and increase their comprehension, too.
When parents read aloud to children, they also should ask questions. Talk about what’s going on in the story and gauge if children are following the plot. Ask them about the characters. The w/h questions of comprehension can help to guide the questions for younger students; focus on questions related to who, what, where, when, why and how.
Encourage Children to Keep a Journal
Reading and writing also can be independent of each other. Educators might require students to read 15 to 30 minutes per day as a part of their homework; however, writing assignments at home could be less common.
Parents who want to help their child to become stronger writers can encourage them to read more and write more, too. Reading can help children improve their writing skills, and writing daily also could help a child feel more confident and practice their writing.
Buy children a notebook or journal and let them write when the inspiration strikes. Children could write poetry or just write about their day. They also could create a story.
Parents should respect their children’s privacy and creativity; before reading a child’s journal or work, ask if it’s ok for parents to read it. The site Wanderer’s Way explains that parents should read their child’s journal only if they are worried about the child’s safety.
How to Build Excitement About Reading
Parents might struggle to find a way to get their child excited to open a book. At school, children are likely expected to read whether they love the task or not. While teachers want children to enjoy reading, it might be the parent’s role to model that reading is enjoyable.
Ideally, children should see their parents reading. If parents never open up a book, children might wonder why they need to read every day.
One of the easiest ways to help children get excited about all their book options is to take them to a public library to let them see all their choices. Both parents and children can peruse the books on the shelves.
Parents might think it’s easier to visit the library alone and choose a few books for their child. However, parents should give children the choice of what book they want to read; this can help children find genres that they find most interesting and discover new authors, too.
Allowing children to choose what they read also helps remove the feeling that reading is an assignment. In addition, parents should understand that all reading materials can be beneficial. Let children explore books, magazines and graphic novels. Some children might like to read newspapers.
At home, parents also can help children create a cool reading nook. Maybe children are allowed to build a reading fort or perhaps they have a reading chair that they love. Let children create an environment that lets them feel comfortable and happy while reading.
Children who struggle to read at grade-level also might need help when they read. Parents can read with them to help with any decoding struggles. In addition, parents also could let children have a storytime with a pet; dogs and cats could love hearing a story, and children might feel less self-conscious reading to a family pet.
While parents should help children find reading materials at the child’s reading level, parents of children who have reading struggles also can inquire about high/low books at their local library. Children who read below grade level often want to read books that are similar to those that their friends are reading; high/low books are focused on the child’s age-level interests and are written for a lower reading level.
Parents who are looking for tips on helping their child with reading and writing at home can use the tips outlined via Schmoker’s article in Edweek. In addition, parents also can focus on helping their child read regularly and help them find books they love so that reading doesn’t just feel like another homework assignment.