June 22, 2015

How to Get the Most Out of Reading Time with Your Child

In elementary school, there are two topics we focus on most heavily during parent conferences: reading and math. I can’t even count the number of times I have sat in a parent conference wishing with all my heart that I could spend just twenty minutes a day doing guided reading with their child. Give me twenty minutes a day with your struggling reader, and you will see tremendous progress and a rapid progression in reading levels in just weeks. Because when I sit down with one, two, or three kids and do focused guided reading, there is real progress. I can see where their weak spots are, coach them through it, and help them develop the strategies they need to become great readers.

The thing is, I usually have closer to thirty kids, and there is only about one hour a day allotted to teaching reading. Much of that is spent with the whole class, and the rest gets parceled out to reading tests, library time, individual conferences, and guided reading groups. My point is, I am not able to spend twenty minutes a day with your struggling reader. In reality, my struggling readers are lumped together in groups of 3-5, and we are lucky if I am able to spend twenty minutes once or twice a week with each group. Our guided reading times are productive, but not nearly as consistent or focused as I wish they could be. Students make progress over the year, but I always find myself wishing I had more time to spend with smaller groups of students on a regular basis. But I don’t have the time, and I can’t make as much impact as I want.

…BUT YOU CAN!!! Moms, dads, siblings, grandparents and caretakers: YOU CAN. You can do the guided reading with them every day that I can’t. You can spend the time getting to know your child as a reader that I wish I could, and you can seriously help them make leaps and bounds if you are willing to invest just 15-20 minutes a day reading with your child. Actually, even twice a week will make a huge impact if you make the most of your time. So here is my gift to you: I will show you how to read with your child the way a teacher would. That 20 minutes a day I wish I could get to work with your kid? Now you can do it. I will try to equip you to know 1) how to approach your child as a reader, 2) what to teach them, and 3) how to teach it.

Guided reading with kids is one of my favorite parts of teaching, and I think you will find that this is a truly special and meaningful way to spend time with your children! Whether you have a reluctant reader or an eager beaver reader, I will share strategies that will help you help them to develop their thinking skills and ultimately improve in their reading ability.

I’m hoping to break this series down into manageable chunks. I know I tend to cover big topics like this in long, information-packed 20-page posts, but it’s just too daunting for me to cover all at once (and probably too daunting for you to read). So I’ll spend the new few posts trying to familiarize you with my general approach to teaching reading and then offer practical reading strategies you can teach to your child during your reading times together.

My goal isn’t to cover everything I have ever learned about teaching reading here. I’m sure I’ll skip over a lot of important stuff, but my goal is to provide for you the kind of straightforward guide I would want to provide for parents of my students. Something practical, realistic, and manageable that would help them maximize reading times with their children.

I will say that most of my experience is teaching children ages 8-10. If you have younger readers, I think many of the same reading strategies apply and are worth reading about so you know what kind of reading strategies your child should be developing in the years to come.

I will continue to update this page as a master “table of contents” page, linking to all the other posts coming in this summer’s series. To begin with, some background knowledge on understanding your child and reading! This is a past post, but one that is foundational to all the others. It talks about the importance of teaching your child to find “just right” books, which is a basic but crucial part of developing reading fluency. I will be referring to it in future posts, so it’s a good place to start:

1. Why Your Child Hates Reading (and How to Change That)

2. What is Reader’s Workshop?

3. What is Guided Reading?

4. Reading Strategy: Monitor Comprehension

5. Reading Strategy: Activate Background Knowledge

6. Reading Strategy: Make Connections

7. Reading Strategy: Ask Questions

8. Reading Strategy: Infer Meaning

9. Reading Strategy: Determine Importance

10. Reading Strategy: Summarize


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