How to Improve Reading Skills in the Early Grades

January 13, 2023

How to Improve Reading Skills in the Early Grades

Identifying reading struggles at a younger age could prevent children from falling further behind. In upper elementary grades, reading becomes the central focus of learning across all subjects and reading struggles could evolve into more significant learning struggles.

Early reading struggles could present in many ways; parents could notice that their child struggles with comprehension-related questions or lacks a solid mastery of word decoding.

Teachers also might notify parents that their child is reading below grade-level. How can parents work with their child to gain confidence and proficiency? Here’s how to improve reading skills in the early grades so that children don’t fall further behind their peers:

  1. Reach out to teachers with concerns.
  2. Read aloud to young children daily.
  3. Encourage children to read to parents.
  4. Practice letter sounds and letter identification.
  5. Ask comprehension-related questions.
  6. Use bookmarks to chunk text.
  7. Review and skill and drill sight words.
  8. Help children choose books at their appropriate reading level.
  9. Focus on reading for fun.
  10. Use a reading program that’s designed for struggling readers.

How to Improve Reading Skills in the Early Grades

Talk to the Teacher

If a child seems to struggle with reading, parents might start to worry. However, parents can help alleviate their concerns and be proactive in identifying their child’s struggle by contacting their child’s teacher.

Some parents hesitate to reach out to their child’s teacher, but communication between parents and teachers can be a vital step in ensuring that learning problems are identified early so that a child can get the help they need. Teachers also might reassure parents that their child is reading at an appropriate level. Sometimes parents might feel that a child needs to be more advanced in reading as a sibling could have been a precocious reader.

Teachers also could validate a parent’s concerns as the child could be reading below grade-level expectations. Parents might be able to request further evaluations and/or explore options related to possible reading intervention services.

Contacting the teacher can help parents identify any reading issues in the classroom and potentially take the next steps into finding additional reading interventions for their child.

Read Aloud to Children Daily

Younger children love to hear stories. Reading to children everyday helps them learn new words and can be a great bonding experience, too.

Parents can encourage children to read with them. They might ask children to sound out a tough word or parents and children could alternate reading a page.

Reading every day to young children can ensure that preschoolers are better prepared to begin their reading journey in kindergarten. In addition, children whose parents read five books a day started kindergarten knowing more than a million more words than children whose parents never read to them.

Every book is an opportunity for a child to develop their vocabulary and prepare for the reading adventure.

Encourage Children to Read to Parents (or a Family Pet)

Children also should practice reading aloud to parents; this can help them build confidence and reading proficiency. Some children, though, might feel timid reading in front of parents. Reading to a family pet also can help children practice their reading; in fact, this exercise could be a great option for children who struggle to read as they might feel less self-conscious.

Scholastic explains that reading to a pet or shelter animal can offer many benefits; not only can this activity help boost a child’s confidence, but it also can be more motivating for children (pets don’t judge mistakes). In addition, Scholastic explains that the pet or shelter animal also derives benefits, as they can enjoy the attention.

How to Improve Reading Skills in the Early Grades

Practice Letter Sounds and Letter Identification

Reading struggles could be tied to a child’s difficulty in decoding sounds and sound blends of the words they read. When children are in preschool, parents can work with them to memorize and master the alphabet letters and the sounds each letter makes.

If children have trouble with letters, use flash cards or create a match game to make practicing letters and sounds more fun for children. There are many apps that offer games and activities that help children practice their sounds and letters, too.

Ask Comprehension-Related Questions When Reading Together

Some children might decode easily yet struggle with comprehension. As children move into the upper elementary grades, they will need to be able to understand books and stories at a more abstract level. However, when children are in the early elementary grades, children might simply need to focus on the basics of a story, its characters and the overall plot.

To help children with comprehension, parents can ask questions focusing on the main aspects of comprehension related to the w/h prompts: who, what, where, when and how. Parents also can ask children to summarize the story. If they struggle with summarizing, parents might need to break stories down into sections and talk about the plot and characters as the story progresses.

Use Bookmarks to Chunk Text

Children who are struggling with reading also might find that chunking the text of a story makes reading more manageable. To ‘chunk’ the story, parents can use a bookmark or sheet of paper to cover up the majority of a page and only reveal a small section of text. Parents might chunk by sentence (for really young readers) or by paragraph.

Chunking also can help older readers feel less intimidated by big blocks of text if the book doesn’t offer illustrations.

Review and Skill and Drill Sight Words

In lower elementary grades, students will likely be expected to memorize a list of sight words. These are words that children need to know on sight; knowing these words can simplify the reading process, as children don’t have to sound out the word. They should see it and read it immediately.

Some children can master sight words easily, while others need more practice. Parents can make flash cards of sight words to skill and drill their child’s list. However, parents should make sure the cards are shuffled to ensure that children aren’t memorizing them in order.

Parents also could make two cards for each sight word and play a match game. Children can flip over cards to try to make sight word pairs. Make sure children read the word on every card.

Help Children Choose Books at their Appropriate Reading Level

A child that is reading a book that is beyond their reading level might struggle to read the book. Parents should help children choose books that are at their appropriate reading level. Parents can find out their child’s reading level by contacting their child’s teacher, however most schools send home progress reports or reading reports that communicate this information to parents.

Focus on Reading for Fun

If parents constantly lecture their child about reading, this could turn reading into a daily battle. Eventually, children could lose interest in picking up a book.

Parents should try to encourage reading for fun. Take children to the library and let them choose books they want to read. Help them create an interest list of topics they wish to read about and find books related to these interests.

Children also could read magazines, graphic novels or comic books, too. All reading is beneficial.

How to Improve Reading Skills in the Early Grades

Use a Reading Program Designed for Struggling Readers

Parents who are concerned about their child’s reading struggles also could use a lesson-based reading app to provide additional help for their child. Readability offers a built-in 24/7 AI reading tutor. This tutor guides lessons and assists children if they stumble on a word or have other difficulties.

The tutor also helps gauge a child’s knowledge of what they read. At the end of each book, the tutor asks a series of questions to test the child’s comprehension.

Readability also encourages word exploration and enriches vocabulary knowledge. Every book offers vocabulary words, and children also can tap any word in a story to hear the definition or listen to the word used in a sentence.

Readability can help readers in kindergarten through sixth grade improve their fluency and their confidence. Parents can sign up for a free seven-day trial period to explore the program with their child and meet the AI tutor, too. Sign up today and find out how Readability can enhance any child’s reading journey.