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How to Maximize the Benefit of Reading With Your Children

Abby Slutsky has a M.Ed., and has substitute taught and tutored for more than 12 years.

Although many parents read to their children or have their children read to them, absent the act of reading, parents usually do not have a plan to maximize the benefit of sharing books with their children. In part, this is because most parents do not know how schools teach reading. Therefore, many parents do not have a plan for how to improve their children's learning by reading.

When reading is taught in schools, the focus goes beyond sounding out words. Reading curricula include an active plan for vocabulary enhancement and a way to test comprehension. With a little bit of effort, parents can use reading strategies at home to mirror how their children learn in a classroom and improve their children's reading comprehension and English.

Tips for Parents on Reading Books With Kids

Here are some steps to help you increase your kids' reading skills so they can effectively learn by using books:

  1. Choose an age- and level-appropriate book.
  2. Read the chapter yourself before you read it with your child.
  3. Create a pre-reading activity for your child.
  4. Brainstorm questions to ask while you read.
  5. If desired, plan a post-reading activity.
Many books for early readers have reading levels designated on their book covers.

Many books for early readers have reading levels designated on their book covers.

1. Choose an Age- and Level-Appropriate Book That Interests Your Child

If your child is not reading by himself yet, choose a preschool-level picture book that will engage him. If he is already reading, you may know his reading level. If not, ask his teacher to recommend some authors or books that he will be able to read. You can also use the San Diego quick reading assessment to give you an idea of your child's level, or choose a book that is close to their level and pay attention to how many errors they make. (If your child is skipping words, the book is probably too hard.) If your child is struggling, then try a lower level until you find one that they can read with minimal errors.

Let Your Child Help Select the Book

When my child was old enough to read, I would find two books, and let him read the jacket of each to decide which one he was going to read. (Even a child who is not reading can select a book based on the cover picture.) Remember, children like choices.

If your child can read the book jacket, this is also a nice opportunity to explain to your child that most book jackets provide information about the story, so readers can decide whether they want to read them. When your child is interested in the book, he is likely to want to improve his reading skills, so he can find out what happens in the story.

2. Be Familiar With the Book Before You or Your Child Start Reading It Together

Read the chapter or sections of the book before your child reads it to you. Identify vocabulary you think your child may not know. Think about some comprehension questions you could ask your child. You do not need to write anything down because you do not want to make reading with your child feel like a class. However, in the normal course of conversation, planning ahead will help your child enjoy the book , improve his vocabulary, and gain knowledge.

Thinking about your child's background knowledge and what he wants to learn can help encourage active reading.

Thinking about your child's background knowledge and what he wants to learn can help encourage active reading.

3. Plan a Pre-Reading Activity

You do not have to plan anything in-depth. For example, look at the front cover of the book with your child, and ask, “What do you thinks this story is about?” Then ask your child the reason for his answer. Even if you are reading the book to your child, you can discuss the cover picture with him. Once you finish the initial chapter, in subsequent chapters, you can ask your child what he thinks is going to happen next.

Another pre-reading comprehension activity is to identify words in the story that you think your child may not know. Ask him if he knows what the words mean. Use them in a sentence to help your child figure out the meaning. Then ask your child to use the words in a sentence himself.

Some teachers like to make KWL charts with their students. Take a piece of paper and make a column for each letter. Before reading, under the “K”, which stands for “know”, ask your child to tell you what he knows about the topic of the story. Under “W”, which stands for “want to learn”, have him indicate what he wants to learn about the topic. At the end of the book. he can fill in the column under “L” (learn) stating what he learned from the story. A KWL chart works very well if you are reading a nonfiction book with your child.

4. Brainstorm Some Questions to Ask While Reading

Discussing the story and asking your child questions will help ensure that he understands the story. Additionally, it will help keep your child engaged. Here are some ideas:

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  • How does the main character feel about_________?
  • How do you know he feels that way?
  • How can the main character get help?
  • Who do you think he is going to ask?
  • Where is the story taking place?
  • How do you know? (Even a young child may be able to say, “It takes place in winter. I see snow on the ground.)
  • Is the main character someone you would like to be friends with? Why or why not?
  • Who do you think is telling the story?

You can also brainstorm your own reading comprehension questions to help maximize your child's learning by reading.

5. Plan a Post-Reading Activity

A post-reading activity can help your child review the story or provide an opportunity for your child make a personal connection to a concept in the story. Here are some ideas:

  • Let your child brainstorm new chapter titles.
  • Ask your child to make a picture about his favorite part of the story.
  • Play "what if" and change something that happened in the story. Ask your child to write a different story ending.
  • Ask your child if he has had a problem similar to the main character's problem. How did your child solve his problem?
  • Pretend to be the main character of the story. Let your child interview you about what happened.

Thinking about these activities and using them while you and your child read together can help keep foster your child 's interest in the story. Additionally, he may retain more details about the story and remember vocabulary.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Abby Slutsky


Danny from India on September 23, 2020:

Nice tips for dealing with kids Abby

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on September 22, 2020:

Thanks so much for reading.

Abby Slutsky (author) from America on September 22, 2020:

Thanks so much for your kind comment.

Lakshmi from Chennai on September 22, 2020:

Hi Abby Slutsky ,It's an interesting and informative article.Enhancing reading skills is essential for children to bring the patience in their attitude and to make them free from electronic gadgets

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