Support Your Student’s Reading During School Closures
An easy way for parents to support students’ learning at home is with reading. In every subject, students need to read. Research has shown that the best way to increase reading ability is to simply read more. That’s it.
Parents reading aloud counts (yes, even chapter books to older students.)
Yes, comic books and graphic novels count.
Finding something your student enjoys reading regularly is the most important thing. For the purpose of school, try to use both fiction (literature) and nonfiction (informative) articles and books.
Focusing on Reading Skills
The next step parents want to add is strengthening specific reading skills.
The Common Core Reading Standards have ten focus standards that spiral through every grade level. Each year, students increase those abilities a little more. For example, the tenth standard is just reading on grade level, so each year students are to try to improve the level of their reading comprehension.
Other standards focus on skills such as main idea & details, identifying text support, and inference.
One of the difficulties many parents have is knowing how to target those skills. The easiest way is to just talk to your child about what they are reading. To help you, I have a free reading resource that has a list of questions that support each of the reading skills. All you have to do is sign up for my email list! To do so, follow the prompts on the right hand side of this page.
Simple Steps For Language Arts
- Select a book to read. It is important for you to know the book. Either read it before starting it with your child, or read the chapter or section before assigning work.
- Select 1-3 questions that fit the reading selection for the day. They do not have to be all on the same standard. I might ask students to summarize the passage as well as explain why a character did something in the story.
- Read it together, read it aloud, or have your child read it independently. It is also fine to have them listen to an audiobook – whatever they prefer or mix it up.
- Ask the questions as you read or at the end. If you are doing a read aloud, sometimes there are natural pauses where you can insert a question as you go.
- If your student has difficulty with a particular skill, model it. A great way to model it is by Thinking Aloud. For example, characterization – why does a character act a certain way. Read aloud, but pause at the part of the book where the character does something and “think about it.” Basically, just talk to yourself. Oh, his grandma is sick! I didn’t know that before, but that might be why he is angry and snapping at people.”
- As your child to keep a reading journal. Have them reflect on the reading. Now, some students do not enjoy this, and you might have to assign specific questions to answer. Other students love to discuss books and what they like or don’t like. (This journal doubles as a writing activity, too.)
Scheduling a Reading Time
However, children (and most adults) need the structure of a schedule. It is comforting and reliable. I would figure out what part of the day is calmest for your household and work on reading then.
I don’t recommend bedtime, because at that point you want your child’s mind to wind down. Asking a lot of questions about a story is not going to relax them.
How Much Time should You Spend on Reading?
If your child is six, their attention span is about six minutes. If your child is ten, their attention span is about ten minutes. Granted, everyone is different, so it may be longer or shorter.
Adults tend to plan an activity for far too long, and children end up off-task and everyone gets frustrated.
So remember, homeschooling does not take nearly as long. Instead of 90 minutes, maybe you need 40 – 60 minutes. For an upper elementary student, plan activities (other than independent reading) in chunks of about 10 minutes.
Children need to build reading stamina, so the goal for independent reading is to work up to 20 – 30 minutes. To check your child’s stamina, have them read on their own and sneakily time them. (Don’t tell them you are timing them.) Their stamina is how long they can stay focused on the book before they shift around and get off-task (or stare blankly into space).
Once you know how long they can stay focused, set a goal to increase it each week. Discuss the goal with your child and set it together. Create a chart to track how long they stayed focus (hey look – a math lesson!) and track the goal. Perhaps set a small reward (a sticker, 15 minutes of a special activity, etc.) for reaching the goal each week.