As children enter the upper grades of elementary school, reading becomes a bit more difficult. In fourth grade, chapter books are likely the norm for young readers. They may be expected to provide a bit more detail about characters and be prompted to make predictions about what happens next in a story.
Reading builds each year, and, eventually, children read across all subjects; this is why reading is so crucial to learning. If a child is struggling or feeling less than confident with reading skills, how can parents provide reading help for 4th grade and beyond?
Determine What Help a Child Needs
Children can struggle with different aspects of reading. In fourth grade, some may still have difficulties with decoding or reading fluency. Other students may struggle with answering more detailed questions about a book as it relates to comprehension. Then there are children who struggle with both fluency and comprehension.
How a parent provides help may depend on what struggles are identified for the child. If a fourth grader is reading far below grade level and continuing to struggle with letter identification or other early skills, parents may reach out to both the school and the child’s pediatrician and begin the process of identifying any underlying medical conditions (this could include a learning disorder).
In fact, Pediatrics (the journal for the American Academy of Pediatrics) published a paper related to the pediatrician’s role in school performance concerns. It isn’t uncommon for parents to discuss these concerns with the pediatrician. Pediatricians may make referrals to other practitioners (including speech therapists, neuropsychologists, etc.).
However, even if a child doesn’t have a formal medical diagnosis, parents still might address the reading concerns with the school and the child’s teacher. A child could qualify for additional reading intervention, special programs or other accommodations. These accommodations could be part of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 Plan.
Receiving additional help may require the child to undergo an evaluation process through the school. This often includes additional testing.
Helping at Home
Depending on a child’s reading struggles, there are many ways that parents can help at home. However, when a child is in fourth grade, parents also can help children understand strategies that could help them as they read.
Try these tips when working with children at home:
- Create a reading comprehension bookmark that includes thinking prompts. Examples of these bookmarks can be found online.
- Encourage children to re-read text. Sometimes reading a passage another time can help improve understanding.
- Chunking blocks of text also could help children as they read.
- Review content at the end of each chapter. When reading chapter books, children can try to summarize what happened after they complete each chapter.
- Use sticky notes to make summary notes while reading. This can help children remember what they read.
- Create graphic organizers that help summarize and organize story details and character traits.
Some children also could want to be speed readers and get through a book quickly. If children are struggling with comprehension, encourage them to take their time and read…and re-read, too! There’s no harm in going back through a chapter to help remember what was read or to just re-read passages to refresh or better understand the plot. Adults do this, too!
When children are struggling with reading, they also should try to read books on their level. Reading a book that is too difficult could cause confusion…or frustration. However, students are often tested for reading and parents are provided with a reading range for their child. This shows the appropriate levels for reading…and, yes, sometimes the ranges do include harder levels.
The key is to not push children to read too difficult text. Challenge is good and it can be healthy; although, if children seem frustrated with a book, it might be wise to choose something else.
It’s OK to Read to a Fourth Grader!
A child may be in fourth grade, but they aren’t too old to hear a story aloud. Parents can still read to their child. Especially if their child wants to read a book that might be too difficult for them. Reading aloud is fun and a great bonding experience.
Reading aloud also allows parents to talk to children as they read. They can ask questions about the story to ensure a child understands the plot. Or just talk about the characters. Have a story conversation! This can encourage a child’s curiosity and make them think deeper about a book.
Before grabbing a book to read aloud, though, ask what they want to read. Even better? Take a trip to the library together and let them choose the book. Parents can even theme read aloud time for upcoming holidays, historic events, etc.
Use the time for entertainment and to broaden a child’s mind!
Using Reading Apps to Provide Reading Help for 4th Grade
Parents who notice their fourth grader struggling with reading fluency or reading comprehension also could utilize a lesson-based reading program at home. These programs are computer-based and can usually be downloaded via an app.
There are many different reading programs and apps; parents might research their options to find the best for their child. Reading programs like Readability provide comprehensive reading help, although other programs may focus on a specific area of literacy.
Readability can help children who struggle with both fluency and comprehension. Readability’s lessons require children to read stories aloud. The program includes a built-in AI reading tutor that learns each user’s voice. As a child reads, the tutor can offer help or guidance.
The AI tutor also helps measure reading fluency. This is usually denoted in words per minute. The fluency for each child can vary, but each grade level usually has different average ranges. Fluency can be affected when a child struggles with phonics or phonemics.
After a child finishes reading a story, the tutor will ask a series of questions about the plot and the story in general. This is how the tutor measures comprehension.
A child will advance to a more difficult reading level only when they display mastery of both comprehension and fluency at their current level. Readability is designed so that children read at their appropriate level.
Parents may wonder how they know what reading level is the appropriate beginning benchmark for their child with the program. Parents can set their child’s reading level according to the reading level from school or Readability can help test the level.
So how can parents know that a program is effective for their child? With Readability, parents can follow their child’s reading progress through the Parent Dashboard. This area is only visible to parents and displays all the child’s current reading data, including fluency (words read per minute), reading level and even how long they worked on the program.
This reading information also can be compiled into a report and emailed to the child’s teacher. This can help parents communicate the progress they are noticing via the program.
Parents might not want to commit to a program without better understanding how it works. Using an AI tutor, for example, might take some acclimation.
Readability is a subscription-based program, but parents can sign up for a free trial subscription to see the program in action. Free trials are limited to seven days and provide full access to the program and the AI tutor.
Interested in working with the AI tutor? Try Readability today!